Goshen Schools eyeing 'SchoolGuard' active shooter app

Elkhart Truth photo/ Blair YankeyGoshen city and police officials inform Goshen school board members of a smart phone app called “SchoolGuard” that would expedite police response should an active shooter situation occur at one of the school buildings. Pictured, from left, GCS Superintendent Diane Woodworth, GPD Assistant Chief Shawn Turner, Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman and GPD Police Chief Jose Miller.  

GOSHEN — A new active shooter warning app could soon be installed at Goshen Community Schools if city and police officials have their way.

Goshen School Board heard from Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman, Police Chief Jose Miller and Assistant Chief Shawn Turner about a possible new safety measure for the school district through a smartphone app during Monday’s meeting.

The app, called SchoolGuard, would allow responders to reach the scene faster of a potential shooting should one occur within the vicinity. It features a “report armed intruder and call 911” button – or panic button – in the middle of the screen that speed dials 911.

Each official stressed the importance of how every second counts in an active shooter situation and this app could potentially save lives by saving seconds.

When the panic button is activated, Miller said police get an instant visual of the area and pinpoint locations on where people are in the building. The app instantly alerts all teachers, staff members and participating schools within five miles.

In addition, all on or off-duty officers in the area will get notified.

“This is where we gain all those responding officers that aren’t necessarily just for our agency,” Miller said. “I can be in Ohio and if I’m within 10-20 miles of an incident that happens, I’ll get the alert for that location, address and map.”

“We might have county officers living right here in our city and not know what’s going on and (they) could have been the first one there, so this app allows us to get that notification right away if we’re within the vicinity,” he said, of another example.

All officers are allowed to download the app for free on their phones, but must show their police IDs and badge credentials before they are approved to use the system, Miller explained.

Turner noted that school staff would not be able to utilize the app on their own time. He explained that there’s geo-fence around the schools and if the panic button is hit outside that geo-fence it will not notify or send out a law enforcement officer.

“But one of the greatest things about this is that it expedites our response,” Turner said. “We’ll not only be able to see where the school that was asking for our assistance (is), but we’ll be able to go immediately to our phone instead of having to go directly through the 911 dispatch where we’d have to get the name, number and find out what the emergency is. It saves so much time and it also makes a direct 911 call so it handles both worlds. So it’s something we’re excited about.” 

Mayor Stutsman said the city would fund the installation for the app for all school buildings at GCS as well as for Goshen's private schools, Bethany Christian Schools and St. John of the Evangelist Catholic School. .

He said the city would likely do a two- or three year contract with the company. The cost would be about $79 per month for all school buildings, he said.

“School safety is high on our priority,” said Stutsman. “We’ve been looking for a few years now and finally found (a program) that we think is going to be useful in getting our police officers to schools quicker if it’s ever needed.”

“My greatest hope is that every dollar we spend on this is wasted and we never have to find out if it works,” he continued.

Although the board members took no action on the measure, they seemed to have had a favorable response.

“I think it’s a great idea and will be very useful,” board member Jane Troup said.

After the meeting, GCS Superintendent Diane Woodworth said the board will not vote on the measure at upcoming meetings and that it was an informational session to inform the board about what might be upcoming.

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