Van Wert Elementary School Earns Heart Safe School Designation

Posted On: Tuesday, March 1, 2022

VWES Principal Justin Krogman, Nurse Emily Whittington, District Nurse Theresa Whittington, and Assistant Principal Tracy Wehner proudly hold the new VWES Heart Safe School Designation banner.

VWES Principal Justin Krogman, Nurse Emily Whittington, District Nurse Theresa Whittington, and Assistant Principal Tracy Wehner proudly hold the new VWES Heart Safe School Designation banner.


Van Wert Elementary School is proud to announce its new designation as a Heart Safe School by Project ADAM. A Heart Safe School designation increases the likelihood that students, staff, and visitors will survive sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) while on campus.

Van Wert City Schools saw a need for cardiac response training after high school principal, Bob Priest, faced every parent’s nightmare when his daughter experienced SCA as they were traveling out of town. Priest learned about Project ADAM and the Heart Safe School designation while working with his daughter’s doctors at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH.

Project ADAM began in 1999 after the death of Adam Lemel, a 17-year-old high school student from Whitefish Bay, WI who collapsed and died while playing basketball after suffering SCA. The mission of Project ADAM is “to save lives by empowering schools and communities to be prepared for a sudden cardiac arrest.”

SCA is the abrupt, unexpected loss of heart function, usually resulting from an electrical problem within the heart. When this happens, the heart usually stops beating and blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. SCA often results in death if not treated quickly. However, an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) can save a life if used in time. An AED provides an electrical shock to the heart and is the only known treatment to stop chaotic electrical activity within the heart. For every minute defibrillation is delayed, the chance of survival decreases by 10%.

Project ADAM works with schools to ensure they are prepared to handle a cardiac emergency through assessments and training. A school becomes designated as a Heart Safe School after completing a thorough list of requirements, including ensuring AEDs are available and accessible, having a written plan and team of CPR/AED-trained staff ready to act in an emergency, and conducting emergency response practice drills.

With having a school safety team already in place at VWES, it was easy to supplement the school safety training with cardiac response training. Within a week of completing their official practice drill, the VWES Cardiac Response Team (CRT) put their newly learned skills to use assisting a staff member who collapsed before school. While an AED was not needed during this event, the CRT was able to execute its emergency plan and respond in time.  

The school district recently acquired 22 additional AEDs throughout its five buildings, bringing the total to 33 AEDs, eight of which are portable and can be used for extra-curricular activities off-campus. This would not have been possible without the help of the Van Wert Area Economic Development Corporation, the Van Wert County General Health District, Van Wert Health, and St. Rita’s Medical Center.

VWES is the first to receive the Heart Safe School designation, but VWCS is actively working to earn a Heart Safe School designation for the entire district, as well as train all staff members so they are CPR and AED certified.  

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