Charleroi Area school officials said they will fully support students within their district who choose to take part in a walk out being planned nationally this month. National School Walkout Day is set for 10 a.m. March 14.

National organizers of the event are encouraging students, teachers and staff to walk out for 17 minutes to remember each of the 17 victims who were killed during the recent shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

The Women’s March Youth EMPOWER group, which is organizing the event, wants Congress to take stronger action to stop gun violence in schools.

“Our students have a voice that needs to be heard,” said Charleroi Superintendent Ed Zelich. “We will do whatever we can to support them. In the coming weeks, we will be issuing guidelines to ensure they are safe.”

Zelich added that high school students will congregate at an on-campus location for the walkout.

School safety was the preeminent topic of discussion during the Charleroi Area School District’s board of education meeting this month.

Zelich told board members that the school district is taking an even closer look at its security protocols.

“We know that we have strengths as well as weaknesses,” said Zelich. “But we are constantly looking for other ways to enhance our security. For instance, we have met with Chief Eric Porter from the Charleroi Regional Police Department to talk school safety. He has some ideas for better protecting our schools, such as adding secure entrances, safety drills, metal detectors and a larger security presence.”

Zelich, who serves as president of the Washington County Superintendents Association, recently visited the new Ringgold Middle School and came back with some ideas for safeguarding Charleroi’s schools.

“I had an opportunity to talk with Ringgold’s school resource officers and had a chance to look at their middle school’s state-of the-art security system. We are planning on doing a bird’s-eye view of our campus security,” said Zelich.

School board president Ken Wiltz reaffirmed the board’s commitment to school safety.

“We will do everything we can to make Charleroi’s schools a safe place to learn,” he said. “We are also asking everyone to be vigilant and keep an ear to the ground. Let us know if something looks suspicious. Our students, teachers, staff and parents all play a role in school safety.”

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