July 7, 2015

Local schools prepared for dealing with an emergency

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 15, 2012

If a gunman were to enter a local school building, officials say school personnel would know exactly what to do.
“Safety has been a top priority in our schools and we will continue do all that is possible to keep our students safe,” Rita Foil, the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s spokeswoman wrote in an email to the Post.
Schools practice lockdowns at least twice a year.
During a lockdown, schools work with law enforcement officers to make sure everything is secure.
The highest level of security, a code red lockdown, requires all doors to be locked, allowing no one to enter or leave the building.
Classes are stopped and children gather in a central location or a secure area.
Foil said that practice was put into action Tuesday when North Rowan elementary and middle schools went into lockdown after the receiving a threatening call from a student.
The lockdowns lasted about 15 minutes. The elementary school stayed in code yellow state, while the middle school briefly moved to code red.
Classes continue as usual under a code yellow lockdown while all doors are locked and secured. Parents are allowed to enter the building, but children are not allowed outside.
“There have been several schools that have gone into lockdown this year and the procedures went smoothly,” Foil wrote in an email. “The practice drills and actual lockdowns are routinely evaluated by law enforcement and risk management.”
Foil said school administrators routinely meet with law enforcement to review safety procedures.
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday means the district will be taking another look at its emergency protocol.
“Anytime a situation like that happens, it always give us the opportunity to see what we can do differently,” Foil said. “Our staff family will pull together to work for the safety of our students and staff.”
Foil said in response to Friday’s tragedy, the district’s crisis intervention team will be available to talk with students, staff and parents about any concerns.
Ellen Boyd, spokeswoman for the Kannapolis City school system, said getting into a school building would be a challenge for a gunman.
“All of our schools now except for A.L. Brown (High School) have locks on all the doors,” she said. “The front door has a buzzer, so nobody can just go walking in.”
Boyd said some schools even have specific areas secured so that even if someone gets inside the building, they won’t have access to classrooms of students.
A.L. Brown has a number of cameras that are monitored by the school resource officer and administrators throughout the day.
Boyd said school officials met with Kannapolis Police Chief Woody Chavis and Sgt. Daniel Wallace on Wednesday to talk about having additional crisis drills.
“We have an excellent relationship with the police department and we do sit down with them on a regular basis and compare notes,” she said.
Another outcome of the meeting is that Wallace will begin coming to monthly principals’ meetings to talk about crisis protocol.
“Obviously, safety is a priority and we’re always trying to do what we can to make things as safe as possible,” Boyd said.
Rob Knuschke, the district’s secondary education director, said teachers receive training on how to deal with emergency situations at the start of every school year and each school updates its drill plans once a year.
“I think we’re in a better position than some districts,” he said. “Kannapolis Police are extremely supportive of us and dedicate a lot of resources to make us feel safer.”
Jessica Grant, the district’s director of student services, said Friday’s shooting will help the school system plan for the future.
“This is definitely something that will be part of our discussion as we move forward,” she said. “We’ll re-evaluate where we are because you can never be too prepared in these situations.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
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