School districts address school safety
Local school districts are reviewing their security policies with renewed urgency to see how they can be improved. All districts have crisis plans and practice tornado and fire drills. They also are learning about how to respond to an active shooter.
Teachers and staff at Hillsboro schools took active-shooter training at their first in-service of the year last fall.
They gathered in groups in different areas, heard simulated gunshots, locked down, and responded in various ways depending on where they were in relation to the “shooter.” They hid, ran, or confronted the attacker.
Superintendent Max Heinrichs said the “shooter” smacked two pieces of wood together, which sounded like a gunshot. The group Heinrichs was with couldn’t lock the door, and when the intruder opened it up, Heinrichs attacked him with a chair, and another staffer attacked with a flagpole spear.
“It seemed pretty real,” Heinrichs said. “The adrenaline was flowing.”
He said students would get the same training this spring.
“We have some places where you could be in a lot of trouble in our building,” he said. “The goal would be to evacuate them as soon as possible.”
Each building has two main entrances. Just four people have keys to those doors. Other staff members use key cards to enter other locked entrance doors. Other people must buzz in so office secretaries can identify them before electronically unlocking the door.
Heinrichs said school personnel try to help kids who are struggling emotionally and socially so they don’t ever get to the point where they would want to use a gun.
“I don’t know if we have all the answers,” he said. “We’re all working at trying to make things better.”
When Goessel school district passed a $3.2 million bond issue that took effect in 2015, a small portion of the money was used to install security codes at most major entrances.
The front door at the elementary school has a buzzer, and all who enter have to go through the office to get into the school.
The high school has a double-door entry. People can enter the first door, and then have to buzz in or go into the office before entering the school.
The district installed 27 security cameras — 20 at the high school and seven at the elementary. They monitor entrances, parking lots, and commons areas.
All interior doors have been fitted with inside locks.
Last summer, sheriff’s officers came to Goessel to gain familiarity with the school buildings. They practiced a takedown at the high school.
Superintendent John Fast said staff at both buildings have practiced a lockdown. Teachers have been given directions on procedures that include hiding, fleeing, or fighting. Two locations have been identified as places to which students and staff could flee if they were in a spot away from the action.
Fast said the board is looking at additional training programs.
Centre has a facilities manager who has taken active-shooter training, but teachers and staff have not yet undergone training.
Key fob access is installed on all outside doors. The security system is active 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Superintendent Susan Beeson said she met with a safety plan team Monday morning. They outlined three areas of importance: facilities security, communications, and education of staff and community.
Beeson said students need to understand why these practices are necessary, and they need to know what to do.
“It’s our goal in a crisis to keep them safe and communicate the situation with parents,” she said.
The safety team plans to use Kansas Safe Schools resources that are available on the Kansas Department of Education website.
The crisis team was planning to meet again today. It includes the facilities manager, school counselor, Beeson, an onsite emergency medical technician, a board member who is an EMT, two teachers, and a coach.
Marion teachers and staff underwent active-shooter training last year.
Superintendent Aaron Homburg said Marion has a good police force that works closely with the schools to keep everyone safe.
Doors are locked, and surveillance cameras monitor entrances and other areas. Teachers use a key card system to enter most doors.
“Student and staff safety always is a priority,” Homburg said. “It’s a concern for everyone. It’s an ongoing process.”
Two years ago, Peabody-Burns school district installed a buzz-in system at the main entrance. Other entrances have card keys.
Superintendent Ron Traxson said they added cameras for better monitoring. He said staff talks with kids, telling them if they hear or see something, they should say something.
At the elementary school, if someone knocks on a door, they can’t be let in. They have to use the main entrance.
Teachers and staff have not undergone active-shooter training, but police officers have become familiar with the building and have used it for training when students weren’t around.
“We are reviewing all our security procedures,” Traxson said. “It’s a matter of live and learn. Hopefully, we’ll learn some things from the last situation.”
He said some situations present a dilemma, such as when someone pulls a fire alarm.
“What do you do? Run outside or hunker in place?” he said. “You can’t figure it out completely, but you can try to slow down the intruder.”
Last modified March 1, 2018