News and Tribune

January 9, 2013

SAFETY FIRST: Greater Clark drills simulate intruder situations


CLARK COUNTY — Within seconds, the school was silent. No lessons, no games, nothing made the slightest sound.

After several minutes, an announcement came over the intercom, giving teachers the all-clear to get their kids out of safe zones.

Greater Clark County Schools ran district-wide intruder drills on Wednesday. Local law enforcement and fire officials oversaw the routines to see what adjustments were needed.

Travis Haire, assistant superintendent, said since the shooting in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14, the district has taken a hard look at its policies, procedures and facility needs in terms of security and safety of students.

“We partnered with local law enforcement after Connecticut and debriefed with our principals and safety folks about what we’re going to do in the short term,” Haire said. “There are some immediate things we can do and we’ll do those as soon as we can. But in the long term, we may have to adjust procedures and see what options we have.”

The drills lasted five to eight minutes in each building. District officials, law enforcement and fire protection representatives walked through the building to see how teachers and students reacted, as well as addressing security concerns like doors that don’t lock or access from one area to another.

Northaven Elementary School was the fourth building where Maj. Glenn Jackson, incident commander for the Jeffersonville Police Department, oversaw a drill. He said every school he observed handled the drills successfully.

“Right now, I give Greater Clark an A,” Jackson said. “We’ve had very few minor glitches, nothing that would get anyone hurt, but something that could be improved.”

Haire said district officials will meet with principals this week to talk about some of their concerns with each building, see what can be done to tighten security and come up with a plan for each school.

But he said there are some buildings in the district that provide specific challenges.

He said three of the corporation’s schools — Northaven, Charlestown Middle School and River Valley Middle School — have some classrooms without doors or floor-to-ceiling walls.

Northaven has doors in the front that prevent anyone from accessing halls with classrooms without a buzz-in from the front desk. But Haire said the other two schools don’t have those shutoff points, which is something they may have to look into later.

He also said the district may have to look at closing up those spaces, but that option wouldn’t come without a big budget commitment.

But Jackson said students and teachers understood and executed the most important part of the drill.

“The primary goal for the staff is that I don’t want to see anybody and I don’t want to hear anybody,” Jackson said.

Haire said in the coming weeks, the district’s facilities director, Steve Hobgood, would tour each school to take a look at safety concerns. He also said the corporation’s strategic planning committee would work to see which schools need more security measures.

Tonja Brading, principal, said while the open concept does bring concerns, she’s happy how her staff handled the drills.

“I’m proud of my staff and students,” Brading said. “I think they handled it very well and I think they did a good job of doing the right thing.”