By Rich Wicks | Times Vedette

A joint meeting of the school boards of Adair-Casey and Guthrie Center was held at ACGC High School in Guthrie Center on Feb. 21. The board heard an emotional presentation from Kelsey Dinkla, instructor of vocal music and drama. She told of the troubling experience the staff and students faced on Feb. 3 when attending the State Speech Contest in Ankeny.

Dinkla said the ACGC one-act group had originally planned to perform using a script about a school shooting, but because of the recent shooting in Perry, the students agreed to change their plan, which meant learning an entirely new script in the few weeks before the district competition. She praised the students for their hard work in getting ready on a short timeline and said they exceled, allowing them to go on to the State competition on Feb. 3.

Dinkla said the State event was going on as expected when several police officers arrived in the auditorium and announced that the contest was over and that everyone needed to leave immediately. Although police later indicated the situation was a bomb threat and was eventually determined to be “not credible,” that information was not known at the time.

According to Dinkla, partly because of the recent tragedy in Perry, students and staff immediately feared there may have been an active shooter in the building, and they promptly left the building as instructed without gathering their belongings. Many of the students did not have their cell phones.

“I’ve never been through one of these before. I don’t care to go through it ever again, but I also know that this is real and this is going to happen, and I know that we are not prepared to deal with it,” said Dinkla.

Dinkla shared her memories of students’ reactions that day.

“I have kids in tears. I am trying to take roll of everyone who is there… so we left, and we were told that we could go pick up our stuff the next day,” said Dinkla.

The competition was postponed until Monday, Feb. 5. ACGC students and staff returned and competed despite the fresh memories of the troubling incident.

“I don’t know what this means moving forward,” Dinkla said. “But we need something. Our kids need better, and our teachers need better, and our coaches need better.”

Guthrie Center School Board President Matt VanMeter asked what additional support would help for situations when staff and students are participating in events away from ACGC. Dinkla replied that she and other staff members will need to communicate beforehand with students and their families so everyone knows a plan in case emergencies occur. Superintendent Josh Rasmussen shared that following the Perry shooting, he has spoken with law enforcement officials to implement safety enhancements at ACGC.

High School Principal Ethan Lensch talked about efforts being made to assure that teachers are making connections with students. He explained this applies not only to “at risk” students, but even to students who have lots of peer friends, because it’s important that all students have an adult they feel comfortable confiding in in times of need.

 “We want to make sure that each kid has at least one champion they can go to,” said Lensch.

In other news

Superintendent Rasmussen explained that the 2024-2025 school calendar is still not finalized due to an upcoming decision to be made by the state legislature.

“I already talked about the start date. Right now, it’s Friday, Aug. 23. If that start date changes, hopefully it does and I believe it will, we’ll start on probably Tuesday, Aug. 20,” Rasmussen said.

The boards each set a public hearing regarding the 2024-2025 Proposed Property Tax Rate. The Adair-Casey meeting will be March 27 at 7 p.m. The Guthrie Center meeting will be April 3 at 7 p.m.