The mission of every educator and staff member of High Point's school district is simple, yet profound: to put the same amount of emphasis on educating their students as protecting them.
For about a year, the district has talked about what measures should be taken to ensure the safety of every student within the building. It was Aug. 28 when the school board unanimously approved the decision to arm a select number of teachers on the small campus.
One reason for this action is the response time law enforcement would need in order to arrive and take care of an active shooter situation.
In the nearly two months since the motion was granted, a number of staff have completed 40 hours of training through Shield Solutions, LLC in order to safely conceal and carry a firearm during school hours. Superintendent Eric Findley said he hopes all the training will never have to be put to active use.
"This is just a nightmare none of us want to face," Findley said. "It's a phone call you don't want to make to a parent, that their child has been shot by an intruder."
Communication with parents was wide open through the two months of deliberation on this point, and Findley said this was met with a good response.
"I've gotten a few calls on this from parents, but not one of those calls was a complaint," he said. "They were all calls of thanks from parents."
The open line of communication also extended to the public for a specific reason.
"We really want people to know not to come in here with that intent," Findley said. "It's definitely a hot topic, but with the recent news of shootings in schools, it's really changed all school procedures."
In the last 30 years, playgrounds have changed, district rules have changed, and sometimes even the structure of the buildings have changed," he said. "But we all wanted the public to know about this. The board has released a question and answer letter to parents to let them be aware of everything. We want to be totally transparent and know we have nothing to hide."
Findley said that as the nation has seen an increase in school shootings, Missouri has not been untouched by this tragedy. He mentioned a St. Louis school shooting that took place in 1983, noting this can happen anywhere. In fact, a number of previous school districts Findley has worked for are following the same path as High Point by arming their own teachers and staff.
While faith is certainly not lost on local law enforcement, Findley and his staff realized arming the teachers was the best way they could protect themselves and the students. The possibility of a student resource officer was out of the question due to financial reasons, but the district has made do with what it can.
At the beginning of the deliberation process for the decision, the school board extended an invitation to conceal and carry to all staff members. Next, each interested teacher was asked to fill out a questionnaire about their intentions for carrying a firearm during school hours. The school board selected a number of their staff to go through training and, ultimately, carry on their person throughout the day.
"I studied school safety for about three years," Findley said. "I learned you have to have a plan, and to think like the bad guy. The first thing is to focus on what you know about your own district and go from there."