West Liberty-Salem superintendent talks safety improvements since 2017 shooting


It was a day Kraig Hissong and his district will always remember.

"Yes," he said. "Very much so."

January 20, 2017. It was the day West Liberty-Salem High School student Ely Serna allegedly brought a shotgun to school and opened fire.

"I think the first six shots were probably fired within 10 seconds," he said.

Serna allegedly shot two students. Both survived.

Hissong says in less than two minutes his K-12 building, about 1,200 students, had been evacuated. It was something students, teachers and staff had trained for.

"We never realized then just how important it would be," Hissong said. "We did it because we thought it was the right thing to do, thinking [it was] better to talk about it than not to talk about it. Little did we know how much impact it would have."

Wednesday's school shooting in Parkland, Florida made Hissong feel an unparalleled sympathy.

"You immediately feel like you want to reach out and help," he said. "That's the first thing I think that I feel when I see it."

He wants to reach out to support those in need and tell those families that it will get better.

"Their staff and their students and everybody involved are trying to figure out what's the next step and what do we do now," he said.

In Ohio, Hissong has partnered with the Ohio Department of Public Safety in a video that was sent to every school district in the state last week.

It talks about the importance of preparing, taking action and having a recovery plan for immediately after an active shooter situation.

"One thing that we realized was that seconds matter," he said.

Hissong says schools need to invest.

Following the shooting at West Liberty-Salem High School, Hissong says the district has spent about $100,000 on better safety measures like easy-to-use and clear door locks.

During the shooting, he says students had to barricade the doors shut. Today, they have 'lock downs' for every door that prevent them from opening.

On Jan. 20, 2017, students had to bust out windows for another exit. Today, they have egress windows.

And, every window in the building now has a bullet-resistant film.

"I think if you don't have these in your building, you should definitely budget for them," Hissong said.

He says you learn by living. And, although he and his school feel safer, they know what happened last year will always be with them.

"Just like any major event where there's some type of shock and trauma involved, I don't think we'll probably ever forget it," Hissong said. "I mean, it's something that will be there."

Serna is charged with attempted murder and other offenses. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.