Tensions run high after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, and parents wonder how faculty, staff and local law enforcement would handle a violent intruder or situation in their childвЂ™s school.
To demonstrate, local emergency rescue teams along with the Emery County SherriffвЂ™s Office teamed up with Castle Dale Elementary on Thursday afternoon to initiate a lockdown drill.
Parents and other concerned members of the community were invited to watch the lockdown, to show them step for step how a lockdown is run, and how their children are kept safe.
вЂњWeвЂ™ve been talking about a lockdown drill for some time now and the shooting out East definitely brought it to a head. We just want our students and teachers to be prepared for anything,вЂќ Ralph Worthen, principal of Castle Dale Elementary stated when asked about the timing of this procedure.
After the lockdown had been initiated, Principal Worthen called local law enforcement who arrived on the scene in a matter of minutes. While waiting for the police, each and every classroom was called in order to determine that every student in the school was accounted for.
вЂњInside the classrooms, the teachers lock the doors, cover the windows on the door, and make sure their student are out of line of sight from any window; then comes the hard part of conducting class normally as they wait for the okay to evacuate,вЂќ Principal Worthen explained.
As the first of the rescue team entered the building, the team rolled through the hallways, guns ready, checking every room, restroom, and office in search of danger. After determining that the school was safe, a second team was called for another sweep through the school.
After both teams cleared the school, they next went to every classroom and explained to the teachers through the doors who they were, before the teachers opened the doors and a double check was placed upon whether or not each student was accounted for. Every teacher was very cautious in opening the doors, only opening once they were completely sure of whom they would find on the other side. If this had been a true emergency situation, the students would have been evacuated from the school, leaving the premises empty for law enforcement to conduct an even more thorough search through the school.
Law enforcement and school officials gathered to discuss the result of the lockdown, where tips for the next drill were made and also plans for the rescue team to come in after hours to conduct another drill so they can be prepared if this were ever to become a reality.
вЂњWhen we conducted this drill a couple of years ago, we couldnвЂ™t find two of our janitors, who had locked themselves into a room that had no phone. This time around, we were much more prepared and I feel very confident in our procedure,вЂќ Principal Worthen stated.
The week after the Connecticut shooting Emery County Superintendent Kirk Sitterud sent this letter to all teachers within the district:
As a school district we certainly take time to recognize and mourn with the families of the victims of the events surrounding the school shootings this past weekend in Connecticut. В It hits all of us hard when we think of the loss of innocence that took place along with the tremendous sense of loss those families feel at this time. В It is also hard to imagine the possibility that something like this could happen anywhere at any time. We never want schools to become places of carnage and we don’t want them to become prison-like for students either.
While we never anticipate that we will be the target of such senseless violence, we must also recognize that the faculty, staff, students and parents of this elementary school in Newton Connecticut probably never thought it could happen to them.
In light of these events, I would ask that you be extra sensitive today and in the coming days to questions that children might have. В Encourage teachers and staff to be careful not to say anything that would make any student feel that they are not safe at school. В Help them understand that we will do everything we can to make sure that they are cared for and that they are safe. В If any children seem extremely upset, feel free to contact parents, if necessary, and offer counseling through Four Corners.
You may have parents that will ask what we are doing to keep their children safe at school. В They may ask you to explain what measures are in place to insure that their children are taken care of and protected. В In order to respond to these kinds of questions I would ask that each principal review with their faculty and staff, as soon as possible, the School Emergency response plan as it relates to an intruder as well as to other related issues that help us plan for student safetyвЂ¦. We need to take this as a reminder that we need to be prepared. At the very minimum we need to make sure we are well versed in our own safety procedures and protocols.
Again, we grieve with those affected by the events at Sandy Hook Elementary. В We pray for them and we send our wish for them to find comfort.вЂќ
вЂњNot all tragedies can be prevented. But we as school leaders, parents, students, and communities need to be ready to handle schools crisis situations to keep our children safe and out of harmвЂ™s way,вЂќ Sitterud told ETV 10 News. вЂњNo single program or strategy can effectively meet the needs of all students. Successful school safety plans have to involve a variety of broad-based strategies, policies, and programs that focus on improving the overall quality of the school environment. One thing is certain вЂ“ students and educators deserve a safe and orderly environment in our DistrictвЂ™s schools where teachers can promote high standards for learning where all children have the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential.вЂќ
Safety procedures have been re-evaluated in both Carbon and Emery county school districts, and more lockdown drills are planned in the near future.