School Board starts meeting with Lock Down Press Release for Coloma Jr. and Sr. Highs
By Annette Christie
The Coloma School Board started their October 9 meeting the way no school district wants to, explaining in a press release as much as they could about a lock down that occurred at the junior high and high school earlier in the day.
Superintendent Pete Bush read the press release, “The junior high and high school buildings in Coloma went on lockdown this morning around 9:30 a.m. when it was reported by students that another student had a weapon. The student was brought to the office for questioning and the police were called immediately.
“Officers arrived and questioned the student who was reported to have the weapon. Officers did not locate a weapon on the student and continued to investigate. They searched several more areas around the high school gymnasium and junior high building and grounds. The lockdown on Coloma High School was removed by 11:15 a.m. once it was determined that there was no threat to students in that building. Coloma Junior High remained on a soft lockdown, with students in their classrooms, throughout the remainder of the day as police continued their search and investigation. Students were escorted to the cafeteria in small groups for lunch and also to the restrooms.
“The police have conducted a thorough search of our buildings and have not found any weapons. Our staff and students should be commended for their patience and cooperation as we worked diligently to ensure the safety of everyone. We would like to thank the Coloma Township Police Department and the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department for all of their support and efforts. We are confident that our schools are safe and we can return to normal activities on Tuesday. I would like to also thank our parents and our community for their patience and cooperation during a difficult situation as we make the safety of our students our top priority.”
Bush said that following the investigation, the student was turned over to his mother. His name is being withheld because he is a juvenile. No students reported that any threats were ever made, just an indication that the student had a weapon. While Bush acknowledged that they couldn’t provide any specific details, the board did take questions or comments before proceeding with the meeting.
One parent did express concern. Bush assured the parent that they were certain that it was safe for students to return tomorrow. “Every nook and cranny was searched. The K-9 unit was brought in that is specialized in that area,” Bush said.
As the meeting proceeded, the individual principals gave updates of their specific schools. High School Principal Dave Ehlers said that a change in meal times has increased the number of students that are eating free breakfast or lunch in the high school. There has been an increase in future planning for the upcoming graduates including an opportunity to visit a recent “College Night” at Lake Michigan College. Homecoming Week went very well with a large number of students participating.
Junior High Principal Wendy Tremblay reported that the junior high had a pep assembly of a smaller scale for Homecoming that was well received by the students. They will be recognizing October as Anti-Bullying Month and will have a speaker on October 16.
Anthony Ianni, former Michigan State Spartan basketball standout will come to Coloma Community Schools to speak to students about living their dreams and to speak out against bullying. Ianni was diagnosed at four years old with Pervasive Developmental Disorder which is on the autism spectrum. Doctors told his parents that he would barely graduate high school, would not graduate from college and would certainly never have a shot at athletics. They said he would most likely end up in a group home with others like him his whole adult life. In spite of their prediction, Ianni went on to graduate high school, was accepted to and graduated from Michigan State University, and played basketball for the Spartans under Coach Tom Izzo. He has pledged his life and career to help those with similar challenges.
Tremblay said that students at the junior high level will also take part in the compassion games which will emphasize doing acts of kindness among the students.
At the Intermediate School, they have instituted a Robotics Club and the Comet Club Choir which will hold a Christmas Concert as well as singing at area nursing homes.
Elementary Principal John Klein told the board that staff morale is high and the feedback that they are getting is positive. In an effort to curb the dismissal time, staff has worked on quicker ways to let the kids go at the end of the day. Klein said they have gone from 16 minutes to 13. He said that the Comet Character Walk-A-Thon will be held on October 26 and students will be asking family and friends to help out with donations.
Student count day
Unofficial numbers are in and it doesn’t look good for the student count day results at Coloma. While school officials did anticipate a drop in enrollment resulting in a drop in state funding, they did not quite estimate a low enough drop. Bush said they