As the funerals continue for the 20 children and six adults gunned down by a lone shooter at a Connecticut elementary school,Washington School District officials and local law enforcement met Wednesday morning to review safety plans.
The meeting brought together the district’s safety committee comprised of administrators and two school board members, both with law enforcement backgrounds, and Washington police and firemen, the Warren County Sheriff’s Department and First Student, the district’s bus provider.
“It was a really good meeting with good discussion,” said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Brendan Mahon, who leads the district’s safety committee along with Andy Robinson, assistant director at Four Rivers Career Center.
Plans in Place
“What I want to stress is we do have safety plans, very good safety plans in place, but we want to look at what we can improve on and see if changes need to be made in light of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting last Friday,” Mahon told The Missourian.
“When we called the meeting for Wednesday it was just going to be our safety committee to talk about and plan a meeting with law enforcement and others, but the police reached out and we decided to include anyone who could come,” he said. “We have met in the past with law enforcement as well and many of our administrators have completed NIMS (National Incident Management System) training.”
Another meeting with law enforcement is planned for Thursday, Jan. 17, at 7:30 a.m. at the Washington police headquarters. All area parochial school administrators are invited to participate as well.
Mahon said the safety meeting followed a lockdown of in-town schools Tuesday afternoon as police and sheriff’s deputies searched for a man who fled on foot after being pulled over by a deputy. That incident occurred near Washington West Elementary. School officials decided to lock down all of its in-town schools as a precaution.
The suspect was captured outside a home on Holtgrewe Road, west of Pottery Road. Deputies recovered an SKS assault rifle he dropped while fleeing officers.
Mahon said the group Wednesday did spend some time talking specifically about intruders and different ways to handle that type of situation. No decisions were made on implementing a specific program.
“There is an active shooter drill planned with local enforcement Dec. 28 at East Central College and I plan to participate in that,” he added.
Mahon said school officials went over current emergency procedures with law enforcement Wednesday and talked about district level, building level and classroom level safety plans.
“We also talked about what information administrators and teachers need to take with them in the event of an evacuation,” he said. “This includes building floor plans, student rosters, the visitors sheet of who else is in the building, things like that. Staff members have a carrying case where a lot of this information is stored.”
Mahon acknowledged that even the most detailed written plan is only effective if it can be executed and that’s why drills and training are so important.
“We talked a lot about training and how to approach it at different levels with Level 1 being the discussions we’re having to Level 3 which would be a full-scale training drill,” he said.
The district’s communication plan was another focus of the meeting, Mahon said.
“We talked about who needs to be called first, do we communicate with the nearby parochial schools, too, when do we notify parents and talking to the media,” he said. “We also talked about the importance of getting factual information out and perhaps even developing some communication templates so we can be even quicker on getting information out.”
How to better utilize the district’s School Resource Officers, who are stationed at the high school and middle school, also was discussed.
“It was decided to have the SROs meet with Andy (Robinson) and myself and walk each school building to get their input on things we could do differently,” Mahon said. “The SROs are very familiar with the high school and middle school campuses, but not as much with the other buildings. These walk-throughs will start Jan. 4.”
The group also spent some time planning the agenda for the Jan. 17 meeting.
Mahon said including as many first responders and schools officials, public and parochial, will benefit everyone.
Washington School District is the largest in Franklin County with more than 4,000 students in preschool through high school, and over 650 staff members.
The school system also has a large number of school buildings — Washington High School, Washington Middle School, the Four Rivers Career Center and eight elementary schools, three within the city limits of Washington, two north of the Missouri River and three others in outlying areas near Union, New Haven and in Labadie.
Additionally, the district’s administration building, Technology and Learning Center and warehouse are located in Washington.