PAPILLION, Neb. (KMTV) — One year ago, on Monday, May 17, 2021, Ryan Larsen walked out of La Vista West Elementary School. The now 12-year-old still has yet to be found.
District spokesperson, Annette Eyman, tells 3 News Now, Larsen walked out around 11:45 during a passing period. They noticed about five minutes later and informed his family and police.
"It’s everyone’s worst nightmare; the fact that a student has left the building and has not been found is something. I know the staff in that building and everyone in the school building, think about every single day," Eyman said.
That day, they tried to keep it normal for other students in the school while searching in the building, wondering where he could be. She calls that day in May, "tragic".
Elementary schools in the district do not have cameras, though middle and high schools do. Eyman tells 3 News Now that there was never an urgent need for cameras and it was a budget issue. She says for middle- and high-school-aged kids, cameras are used for other surveillance, but the younger kids have never posed an issue.
"It was really a budget issue and the ESSER dollars (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund) with the COVID relief and some of that, we found that cameras were not just safety and security but we can use it for contact tracing and some of that," Eyman said.
She says cameras have always been in the long-term plan but were accelerated when Larsen went missing.
"I think every single day since Ryan has disappeared we’ve asked 'what if,'" Eyman said. "When you have a tragic event like this and think, 'What if we would’ve had cameras?' It absolutely accelerated cameras."
In the past year, they've reevaluated procedures and worked to ensure parents can feel safe sending their kids to school.
Eyman says, the biggest thing has been to make sure all adults in a building are aware of any kids that might be more likely to run. They're also keeping more eyes on students during passing periods.
"Just being more intentional about making sure those students in particular that have been identified as potential runners. Being more intentional about making sure there's always adults on those individuals," Eyman said.
While they work to prevent this from happening again, they carry Larsen with them every day.
"Everyone that knew Ryan that have worked with Ryan from the school district perspective. Everyone that had even heard about his story is forever changed," Eyman said.