JAMESTOWN – The Greeneview Local School District is preparing for the worst-case scenario.
Knowing about Sandy Hook and other school shootings, and more recently about the shooting at West Liberty-Salem Schools, officials are fearful while at the same time motivated.
It’s time to take preventive action, school officials say. It’s time for a drill.
“I have kids in the first and third grade,” Superintendent Isaac Seevers said Feb. 18, during a regular school board meeting. “I send my kids to school every day with the expectation that they’re going to come home safely. I want my kids safe. My basic instinct is to protect my kids.”
Because he has children in the school, Seevers said he feels more sympathetic toward other parents, and their concern for safety.
In compliance with state law, school officials slated the drill in coordination with local law enforcement for Tuesday, March 7, with the high school’s drill starting 9 a.m., the elementary 10 a.m. and the middle school 1 p.m.
Officers from the Jamestown Police Department, officials from the Silvercreek Fire Department and deputies of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office will conduct the drill, which is formulated by the Department of Homeland Security.
In each drill, shots will be fired in the building – blank shots.
“We don’t want a situation where we haven’t prepared our students,” Seevers said. “In the event of the unlikely, we must prepare for the worst.”
Before the 10-minute drill, school officials will present an eight-minute video about the training, dubbed ALICE, followed by a 20-minute discussion.
“What do we do if there’s a shooter in the cafeteria?” Seevers asked. “When do we run? When do we barricade?”
The drill will answer such questions, Seevers explains, so that students are prepared in the event of the unlikely. At the beginning of the drill, police officials will then fire gunshots (blanks) at various places in the building. School officials will then announce it and students will evacuate the building.
“This drill can’t make them fearful of coming to school,” Seevers said. “It’s important for me to know my kids are safe — all the kids.”
Also, he said, it will prepare staff members to be able to protect the kids.
“When you hear of school shootings, you wonder: Who could do that to kids?” Seevers said rhetorically, before the board went into executive session. “Majority of the time these shootings happen internally. It’s usually not a stranger; it’s usually someone they’re familiar with, which makes it worse.”
School officials hope this training will raise awareness so if students hear about something that concerns them, they are more willing to be open about it and tell someone.
“We are required by law to have drills,” Seevers said. “For us, we just need to be prepared as much as possible. We’ve already been preparing administratively for what we would do.”
The recent shooting in West Liberty, board members said, gave them a sense of urgency.
“West Liberty school officials had performed drills and had practiced,” Seevers said. “Cedarville did it the last couple years. Often, students did not recognize gunshots. We want students to recognize that sound.”
Recently, administrators sent a letter out to students, staff and parents about the upcoming ALICE training to inform the community.
There will not be gunshots in the elementary drill.
“The whole thing is only 30 to 40 minutes, but that will involve the video, discussion and the actual drill,” Seevers said. “When they come back in, everyone will be debriefed … We don’t want them to be paralyzed by fear. We want them to be able to react quickly as a result of this … This is very thorough.”
Board member Todd Ireland believes having police officers in the schools is a tremendous preventative measure, and now communication about the training is vital.
“The more ability to get our word or message out is going to help calm people’s ideas or fears of what they’re going to have to see,” Ireland said. “There are going to be some concerns. After I heard about West Liberty, I thanked God we made the decision to put police officers in our buildings — one per building.”
He said the officers are from the Jamestown Police Department.
“We started having them in the buildings in 2013, following the Sandy Hook shooting,” Ireland said. “Who would do such a thing?”
For more information about the drill, visit www.alicetraining.com/active-shooter.
Brian Evans is a freelance writer for Greene County News.