School district coordinates with emergency response teams on safety procedures

The West Linn-Wilsonville School District is reviewing its school safety and crisis management plan in light of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which left 20 first-graders and six staff members dead on Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn.

“It seems like a long time ago, but just last month really violent events really challenged us as a school community,” Superintendent Bill Rhoades said at the Jan. 14 school board meeting. “In light of recent events, we have been in the process of reviewing, reinforcing and evaluating our safety plans, emergency procedures, practices and protocols.”

A district safety committee is currently reviewing and evaluating the district’s crisis management plan in coordination with city police, the county sheriff’s department and emergency response officials.

Emergency response organizations were provided with school building plans to determine how each organization might approach a school in an emergency situation. Emergency responders will also be given tours of school facilities by Tim Woodley, director of operations.

The school district and emergency responders are reviewing the following school safety measures:

  • Procedures for welcoming visitors and guests

  • Procedures for entering and leaving buildings

  • Procedures for the securing of entrances and exits to buildings

  • Procedures and protocols for emergency response protocols and guidelines

  • School plans that are in place for the supervision of children in classrooms and as they move around the school and campus

  • Crisis response plans

    A meeting to update staff has been scheduled in February. An updated report — with potential revisions — will be finished sometime in May. Rhoades said the process, which spans multiple schools and two cities, is intricate and may require time and thoughtful evaluation.

    “It would be easy to say, ‘Keep all the doors locked,’ but that’s not necessarily the safest decision to be made,” Rhoades said.

    Woodley said the school district has used its crisis management plan for some years; however, it is updated regularly. The revisited plan will be implemented district-wide this summer.

    “We have a good solid crisis management plan that is posted in every classroom in the district,” Woodley said. “There have been some changes in the rules and laws, and in light of recent events, we want to spend a little more time on it.”

    Emergency response in action

    Rosemont Ridge Middle School students and staff participated in a lockdown drill on Jan. 16.

    There are two types of lockdown drills — a lock-out and a lock-in. A lock-out drill is practiced to prepare a school for how to respond to a situation where something of concern is occurring in the nearby vicinity. A lock-in drill is practiced to prepare the school for how to respond in a situation where a person of concern is in the school.

    The entire school practiced a lock-in drill within the conference classroom environments. Students watched a video in which Principal Debi Briggs-Crispin outlined the protocols for this drill and then teachers discussed it.

    In the video, Briggs-Crispin requested students understand that in the event of a real lockdown, fire or earthquake, they must not call or text their parents. If a school is experiencing a true lockdown situation, the building would need to be locked and visitors would not be able to enter — except for emergency personnel.

    In the event of an emergency situation such as a lockdown, fire or earthquake, emergency vehicles need to enter the parking lot. Because of that, if students called or texted parents who then drove to the school, the vehicles could hinder emergency vehicles from entering the parking lot.

    In the event of a real emergency, the school will send a flash alert message notifying families as soon as possible when and where students can be picked up.

    Following the video and conversation, Briggs-Crispin announced over the loudspeaker a lock-in drill. At that time teachers locked their doors, rolled down window coverings and ushered students to safe areas of the room.

    While the drill was under way, administrators walked through the building and noted that every classroom was locked, windows were covered and students and staff were quietly gathered inside. Briggs-Crispin sent out a message on the school’s email later in the afternoon claiming the lock-in was successfully executed.

    “Schools have always practiced earthquake and fire drills to prepare students and staff for safe responses should one of these occur,” she wrote. “Adding lockdown drills is an unfortunate reality, but one our district, our students and our staff take very seriously.”

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