Elementary school goes into soft lockdown

Parents concerned about how Jan. 18 incident was handled
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Birnamwood Elementary School went into a soft lockdown Jan. 18 after a man was noticed exhibiting suspicious behavior outside the school.

Garrett Rogowski, superintendent of the Wittenberg-Birnamwood School District, called the Shawano County Sheriff’s Department, which contacted the school’s liaison officer, Dan Weisensel.

Weisensel investigated and said the 24-year-old man from Texas was apparently involved in an online relationship with a teacher. The man was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, Weisensel said.

The man has since posted bail and is back in Texas. There were no threats made and no danger to anyone, according to the sheriff’s department.

Most of the students were unaware of anything unusual, Rogowski said.

During a soft lockdown, the school maintains normal activities but no one is allowed outside.

“It happened and was handled in the morning, and I didn’t alert the parents at that time as I didn’t want to heighten concern,” Rogowski said.

At the end of the school day, the school sent a phone message via Skyward — the school notification system — to tell parents what had happened.

“It’s important to note that all other schools, like Tigerton, Bowler, etc., would have followed the same protocol,” Weisensel said.

Some parents, however, have expressed concerns about how the incident was handled.

Jamie Arndt, who has two children at Birnamwood Elementary, said she was concerned that the phone message was hard to hear and that it came so late in the day. The only option for parents with questions was to leave a message.

“Personally, as a parent, I would have liked to have been notified a lot sooner that an incident occurred and maybe a better explanation sent home in a letter that day of what happened,” Arndt said.

Arndt spoke with Rogowski on Friday and suggested a review of the incident, including what went well and what could have been done differently.

Parents also raised the issue at the Wittenberg-Birnamwood School Board meeting Monday.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Leah Lex, of Birnamwood, said there should have been more information provided following the lockdown.

Rogowski again said he did not want to heighten an issue that had been resolved.