Harrison School — the target of threats from a former student — continued Monday its efforts to heighten security, this time by adjusting access hours.
Administrators, however, are mum on more detailed plans to increase safety at the school, saying they don’t want to thwart their strategy.
Rather than having the school janitor open the doors at 6 a.m., as usual, the door adjacent to the school parking lot will not open until 7:30 a.m., prior to the 8:10 a.m. school start, Superintendent Fred Hofman told The Montana Standard on Monday.
“In the office we have the capability of immediately pushing a button to immediately lock the front door,” he added. “Some of it is just making sure that everyone knows what we’re doing.”
The front entrance, which faces the highway, will remain open throughout the day.
Early-bird students and their parents will have to adjust to the changes.
“Students won’t be able to get into the building if they come a little earlier,” Hofman said. “We want to make sure that everyone understands that the doors will be open later and closed earlier.”
Hofman has made arrangements with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, who will staff after-school sports practices and programs until further notice.
“There are other changes that we will not release because of security issues,” said Hofman. “We do have some other things we will put into place, but at the same time we don’t want to lose that strategic ability.”
Former student Spencer Ore appeared in court Feb. 3 on charges of threatening Harrison School and students via a Facebook account in which he used a fictitious name.
Initially, Ore was 15 when he was charged with taking a loaded .357 Mangum revolver and a .22-caliber pistol to Harrison School in January 2013. At the time, Ore told authorities that he thought about shooting up the school. After admitting the allegations in May 2013, Ore served seven months in a youth home before being released to his parent’s custody in December.
Now, Ore has been released into the custody of his parents to be on house arrest, and can only leave home to attend school, or if he’s within arm’s length of one of his parents. Other conditions of his release are that he is not allowed access to the Internet and not to step foot on Harrison school grounds. He travels to Bozeman for school at a day-treatment program.
Hofman is resting a bit easier since Ore’s whereabouts are constantly monitored, as GPS monitoring runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, allowed authorities quick access to the system.
“Most importantly, the thing that has us feeling better about the whole situation is that the county sheriff and probation officer make sure there is a GPS tracking device on the student,” said Hofman, adding that it went online on Feb. 6. “We feel substantially better knowing that they know where he’s at.”
Hofman enlisted the help of the Gallatin County Sheriffs Departments, which along with Madison County, posted officers at last Friday’s Harrison-Sheridan basketball game. Willow Creek is located in Gallatin County.
The game, played at neighboring Willow Creek school about 21 miles from Harrison due to the threats, went off without a hitch, Hofman said.
However, students and parents had to scramble for rides and deal with an early JV basketball game in Three Forks seven miles from Willow Creek.
“It was a little goofy, but it went well,” said Hofman, crediting the student and parent groups that organized the homecoming dance, dinner and concessions. “Willow Creek was just fantastic about working with us to make it happen. All things considered, it worked out well.”
Officers from both sheriffs departments will again be on hand Saturday, when Harrison will host a game between Willow Creek and Shields Valley.
Contact Birkenbuel at Renata.Birkenbuel@mtstandard.com or 406-496-4412.