Wednesday, January 30, 2013

TOP STORY >> Cabot schools in drill for shooting scenario

Leader staff writer

Cabot school officials are preparing students and staff for the worst hide-and-seek scenario ever.

The classrooms at Cabot Junior High South on Tuesday went dark for a lockdown drill. Teachers locked the doors and students worked at keeping silent for 10 minutes. They kept away from windows as if an intruder was stalking the hallways.

The practice could save lives if an armed gunman decided to attack a school.

With the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut still fresh on their minds, school administrators, police, fire and emergency first responders reviewed crisis management plans with lockdown drills at Cabot High School, Junior High South, Middle School South and Stagecoach Elementary.

“The variables are different at all 15 sites. Each building presents unique challenges. It’s not a one size fits all,” Superintendent Tony Thurman said.

Thurman said students of different age groups have different demeanors. Students need to understand the seriousness of the drill. “This is your life at stake here,” Thurman said.

Junior High South Principal John West said the school annually reviews the crisis emergency plan, but the Connecticut school shooting brought school safety and security into the limelight.

“Some think it could happen tomorrow. Some think it could never happen,” West said.

Law enforcement and school officials reviewed building maps and communication methods. They jiggled door locks and noted where a person could hide inside and outside the building. They looked at securing the school office and the electrical supply closets.

West said one of the challenges for a lockdown plan is at least 75 students have to go outside the main building to the activity building or to the career and technical building.

After the drill, officials discussed ways to improve safety. The intercom can only be heard in the classrooms not in the hallways or outside the building. That needs correction, they agreed.

A severely disabled student in a special education class cannot be in the dark. The staff must devise a way to blacken a window without turning off the lights in the special education classroom.

Police Chief Jackie Davis said the lockdown plan allows different agencies to work together and get feedback. Cabot police, along with Austin and Ward police departments, Cabot and Ward fire departments, MEMS emergency medical technicians and the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office attended the lock down drills.

“Everybody is a willing participant,” Davis said. He said the police department plans to hold more tactical drills.