HUTSONVILLE, Ill. (WTHI) - When a threat presents itself, especially at a school, time is of the essence.
Hutsonville Schools Superintendent Julie Kraemer says, "If something would happen here, our closest individual would be Robinson, and depending on where they're at and what they're doing it could be anywhere between 15-20 minutes before they even get here, and that's just unacceptable."
Many rural schools face this problem of virtually being a sitting duck until help arrives. But not Hutsonville schools!
Kraemer shares, "If you're a teacher, if you're a custodian, if you're a cook, if you're a bus driver, a secretary, if you're an administrator, I don't care what your role is, especially a small school like this, they're our kids. We have 324 of our kids and if something happens to that, it affects us."
Kraemer says neither the village of Hutsonville nor the school could afford to hire a school resource officer. That's why Kraemer decided to go through the training herself.
She says, "It's nice to know that just in case something would happen to happen here, that we have something other than throwing a stapler at an individual as a counter-attack."
Through this training, Kraemer says she's gained a lot of new skills. It's things that she hopes she'll never have to use, however having the skills does make her feel a lot better about the safety of her school.
She says, "I've done self-defense, I've had 40 hours of firearm training, before you know I could qualify on that, so I got qualified there. Proper way to put on handcuffs, lots of law and legality things."
Kraemer says by the end of the training, she'll have put in more than 900 hours. She says that every second of the experience was worth it.
The superintendent says, "If something would happen, just to have known, that, 'Hey this is something that I could've done and didn't do it,' I'm not sure that I would've been able to do that."
Kraemer started training January 20th, 2018 and has been meeting almost every Saturday for training since then. This Saturday is when she’ll take the state test, graduate, and officially be an SRO. Kraemer says the training used to be 500 hours, now it’s around 940 hours which is the same as a full-time academy. Kraemer says her training won’t end here either. In the future, she is looking to pursue more education like active shooter training.
Kraemer also she’s gotten a lot of support from Robinson Police Chief Chad Weaver. She says he continues to work with the school district along with the Hutsonville Police Chief Paul Maxwell. She says either Chief was only a call or text away for questions. Kraemer adds that they’re both very hands-on with the school’s crisis management plans.
She has some law enforcement background. She used to work at the Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute. She was a system administrator for Unicore. She worked there for about 10 years and during that time they had to qualify with firearms and self-defense every year. So it’s not like this was a completely new concept, but it definitely challenged her skills in a new way.
The district did help Kraemer pay for some of the mileage traveling to Ina, Illinois for the training. Other than that, there wasn’t a cost for the training, and Kraemer says her salary will stay the same. Kraemer says the village of Hutsonville was able to hire her as an officer to send her to training. She qualified for a state grant, and as long as she graduates, the village will be reimbursed for the cost of her training.