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School crisis management discussed at board meeting

The recent shooting in Arizona has made many in the St. Croix Central School District question whether the schools are prepared to handle a crisis.

During the public comment time at the Jan. 17 school board meeting, student Joshua Peterson asked the board if the district was doing an effective job training staff to respond to health and safety issues in the schools.

The three school principals as well as Shannon Donnelly, middle school special education teacher, have been working on a crisis management plan for the district.

Donnelly said the school's crisis plan has not been reviewed since February 1995.

"We have a lot of catching up to do," Donnelly said.

SCC took the first step toward educating staff on how to respond to a crisis during an "active shooter" presentation by local law enforcement on Jan. 11, during the morning of professional development.

The presentation walked staff through what a potential school crisis would look like, and what staff members roles and expectations would be during a crisis situation.

Donnelly said after the presentation she heard an "overwhelming amount of positive feedback."

Donnelly said the presentation brought "reality" to the situation and made teachers ask themselves, "In my specific building, what would I do? Where would I go?"

The plan consists of four different scenarios -- an evacuation, a bomb threat, a lockdown if the threat were outside and a lockdown if the threat was inside the building.

Donnelly said the crisis plan is not elaborate.

"Our goal was to keep our plans as simple and concise as possible. No code words or secret phrases," she said.

Donnelly said they thought it would be best to be honest with the staff during a crisis situation.

"That way they can start executing the plan, doing what they can to help keep our students safe," she said.

In each scenario the principal would be the lead person, but there would also be one or two lead staff members designated as "second in command," if the principal was away from the building or unable to respond.

As part of the plan each staff member would have a list of all staff members that are CPR and first aid trained. Each teacher would also have a cell phone list of other teachers, in order to notify classes away from the building, if it is unsafe to return to the school.

Donnelly said the best part of the plan is the "crisis kit" each teacher would have. Each kit would include an updated class list, writing utensils, important numbers-- all the information crucial during an emergency situation.

The principals would have more comprehensive kits. The principal's kits would include a copy of the crisis management plan, writing utensils, a map or blueprint of the school, a class list, a flashlight and a list of all students and staff with medical needs.

Donnelly said the kits are meant to be "readily accessible and available."

Donnelly listed a number of other preventative measures that should be taken, including labeling doors for emergency responders, collaborating with law enforcement to do checks to deter students from bringing unsafe items into the schools and educating students to be "listeners and communicators" with each other, to inform teachers of suspicious activity to "hopefully stop a situation before it even gets to our school."

Donnelly and the school principals hope to get a working document in place as quickly as possible.

"I think if there was a crisis situation right now we would have a lot of people who wouldn't know exactly what to do," she said. "We really want to make sure we get everybody on the same page. So everyone is consistent and the staff is educated so we can keep the situation under control, and our students safe."

In other news:

• Since December, enrollment in the elementary school is up 12 students.

• Howard Kruschke was elected chairman by a unanimous vote from the school board (John Hueg and Jeff Redmon were not present at the meeting).

• Trinity Lutheran Church, 1250 Broadway St., in Hammond, was designated a school site by a unanimous vote from the board members.

• Middle School Principal Scott Woodington voiced concerns about space issues in the middle school. He noted that the multi-purpose room was packed at the winter concert this year. He said the space issues are going to continue as larger classes continue to enter the schools.

• High School Principal Glenn Webb discussed a new block schedule for semester exams.

• The board approved new texts and developmental resources in mathematics for grades 6-12. The current resources in the middle and high school are 20-25 years old.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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