Talk is often that safety of students and staff is USD 503’s highest priority, so Assistant Superintendent Jeff Pegues updated the Board of Education Monday on the district’s crisis response plan, what drills it does and what plans it has in the event of a crisis.
Pegues provided a list of the main five crisis response drills. The state mandates schools do four fire drills, two tornado drills and three crisis drills.
“We go above and beyond on the crisis,” Pegues said. “We double the number of crisis drills,” doing three in the fall and three in the spring.
“Those drills are important,” Pegues said, as they show where there are issues, such as doors not locking, a walkie talkie is not working, etc. “We get all the feedback from those and then make those corrections so that in the case of the real thing, we are prepared.”
Crisis response is constantly changing, he said, and every time an incident happens somewhere in the nation, they learn more. The guidance, directions and information schools need changes as far as the most updated responses to that.
Presently, if there is a lockdown in the building, teachers respond with “locks, lights and out of sight,” which is considered the best response, Pegues said. As far as exterior lock downs, which Garfield had earlier this year when there was an incident within a couple blocks of the school, there is usually a police presence in the neighborhood. In that situation, every exterior door is locked and no one is allowed in or out of the building, a teacher is stationed at every door with a walkie talkie and school goes on as normal inside the building.
Clear the halls is another drill where students and staff clear the halls to clear a path for emergency personnel coming or going.
“Any time we have a real situation, we talk about how it went and what we can learn from that and what we can improve on the next time,” Pegues said.
Pegues heads up the district’s crisis team that includes administrators from each building. As things progress there will be directors from food service, transportation and maintenance who will all have roles. Each building has a crisis team, too.
Pegues said administrators are updating crisis manuals and working on communication, which is a key part in any drill or real situation.
“We want to make sure we are getting information out to parents as well as communicating internally in the district and with police departments, EMS and those factors, too,” he said.
They are looking at apps, like Raptor 2, and Pegues said he took a trip to Derby, which is said to be the best district in the state at crisis planning. He has also checked out the I Love U Guys Foundation, and he has been bringing that information to the district to work through those things.
The I Love U Guys Foundation was started by parents who lost a child in a school shooting. He said the foundation provides a ton of resources, provided by experts, that are all free to schools. The district has used those resources in the past. Now Raptor 2 partners with the foundation.
As far as communications, Pegues said, “Our new intercom system has some features with crisis that we are working on putting into play, too.”
The district has purchased more walkie talkies that can communicate with police and buses, as well as internally.
Additionally, Stop the Bleed kits and other safety bags for classrooms are being ordered. Superintendent Lori Ray said it was a requirement for all staff to take the online portion of Stop the Bleed training at the beginning of the year. Ray was not sure how many had gotten the hands-on training.
Board member Lou Martino said it is important they do the hands-on training. Situations can get kind of gory and teachers need to know what they are doing.
Pegues said Derby brought Stop the Bleed training in for its district crisis team, and then that team brought it to school crisis teams as well, which is what they are considering doing in Parsons.
Martino said Labette Health has offered the training.
“A lot of parents and board members want to know what are we doing to keep our kids safe. We take this very seriously and we meet monthly,” Pegues said.
This year they have already conducted all the different types of drills and will conduct them again after winter break to make sure they are fresh in people’s minds.
Schools can’t do it alone
Ray spoke to the board about the Kansas Association of School Board’s annual convention she and board member Mike Kastle attended. She went to several sessions. Of particular note, Ray said, was a session for superintendents led by public education advocate Jamie Vollmer, who provided a chart listing all the mandates placed on schools/districts since it began in the early 1900s. From 1900 to 1910, there were four mandates. From 1910 to 1940, there were four more added. In the 1940s, officials added five mandates. In the 1950s, five more things were added. Seven more mandates were added in the 1960s. In the 1970s, officials added 13 new mandates. In the 1980s, they added 19 new mandates. In the 1990s they added 19 new mandates and in the 2000s they added 29 new mandates, plus 14 courses.
In all that time, they didn’t drop any of the mandates from the list.
“This gentleman is a crusader for public schools and he really talked about how schools can’t do it all by themselves and how they need the community and they need parents,” Ray said.
Quoting a statement from Vollmer, Ray said: “Here are all the things we’ve added but we’ve not added a single minute to the school calendar in eight decades. An argument might be made that every addition to the list has merit, and there’s no doubt that we must do everything we can to prepare every child to thrive and prosper in a complex society and global economy, but if we continue to insist that our teachers and administrators compensate for society’s failures and neglect, if we through our elected representatives mandate that our educators assume duties that were historically performed by families and communities, and if we raise academic expectations every year, then we must accept a basic fact, our schools cannot do it alone.”
Ray said a lot of times, schools are the worst about asking for help, so they own some of that responsibility, too.
Kastle said he attended a session on recruitment of school board members, but said it was not a good session.
Speaking to recruitment of board members, Martino said there are groups who are seeking to be elected to school boards in order to ban books, get rid of the nonexistent critical race theory and make sure parents are involved, even though they are already involved. Martino said heading the movement is the Kansas Policy Institute, which is known to dispense misinformation. Martino said while this type of recruitment is going on, it is for the wrong reasons.
Ray said such was seen during the state school board elections where different groups sponsored different candidates.
“It is sad if it is all completely one-sided,” Martino said.
IN OTHER BUSINESS, the board:
—Heard finishing touches are being added to plans for ESSER III funding.
—Heard Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will be Thanksgiving recess for USD 503 students.
—Heard Dec. 16 will be early student dismissal for staff to work on grades for the end of the second nine weeks.
—Heard Dec. 19 through Dec. 30 is winter recess.
—Accepted donations to district schools totaling $3,950.90.
—Approved the ESSER II retention incentive plan, paying out $500 on Dec. 1 and March 1 to all staff.
—Hired Carla Burke, bus monitor; Raheeme Dumas, high school girls assistant basketball coach; LaRae Hickerson, high school evening custodian; LeRin Hickerson, middle school evening custodian; Greg Lambkins, high school boys assistant basketball coach; Amanda Lowe, high school science teacher; and Taylor Huggins, Guthridge Title I aide.
—Accepted the resignations of Bill Baird, high school girls assistant basketball coach; Raheeme Dumas, middle school boys basketball coach; LaCynthia Hinman, Guthridge custodian; Gabrielle Hinman, high school assistant volleyball coach; Wes Krull, middle school head football coach; Brooke Hopper, high school head volleyball coach; Allie Jones, high school boys and girls assistant swim coach; and Aubrey Lawson, Title I aide.
—Accepted the resignation for retirement of Carol Hoyt, elementary music/middle school Spanish teacher, effective end of the school year.