School boards prepared for emergencies

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February 2, 2016 11:37 AM

Lockdown protocols reviewed in light of La Loche shootings

Following the tragic shooting at La Loche Community School, Lloydminster Public School Division and Lloydminster Catholic School Division want the public to know they’re prepared in case similar events strike closer to home.
“I think what we’re doing is taking the approach of being over prepared and you never want to see an incident like La Loche happen,” said Brent Thomas, superintendent of student services for LPSD, referring to the shooting in the small Saskatchewan community where a 17-year-old shot dead four people, and wounded another seven on Jan. 22.
“But what we can do as school divisions is have the protocols and procedures in place to do our best, to make sure that we’re prepared.”
Thomas said LPSD has an emergency response plan that describes in detail how often different procedural drills need to be practised.
For instance, lock down procedures that would be used in the case of an active shooter in a school need to be practised three times a year.
LPSD gives parents notice that they’ll be conducting a lock down and inform them when the drill is complete through a letter or an email.
They also make sure the literature regarding these procedures is reviewed monthly and updated as necessary.
“We make sure the documents are something that are living, that we continue to, on a monthly basis, review the procedures with our administrators and they review them with their staff,” Thomas said.
“It’s just the approach that we take.”
The division is part of the Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) Community Protocol, which combines a number of community groups that work together to keep schools, and the community, safer.
VTRA sees both school divisions partner with groups like the RCMP, health, social services and other agencies in both Alberta and Saskatchewan to provide early intervention in the case of a threat to students and staff.
Thomas said VTRA also provides training to school board staff, administrators and councillors, which he said is key in allowing LPSD to be more responsive to different behaviours that may be exhibited by students.
“So whether it’s lower-end like worrisome behaviours, all the way to high risk behaviours, staff can identify them, bring them to their school team and the protocol can be put into place from there,” he said.
LPSD sent a notice to parents shortly after the tragedy in La Loche, acknowledging the mourning of those killed and injured, and staff also observed the province-wide moment of silence that took place at 9 a.m. last Friday.
The notice also reassured parents by detailing the drills and procedures practiced with students on a regular basis.
“At LPSD we just want to make sure that we’re always prepared in everything we do,” he said.
“We strive to ensure that our learning environments are safe and secure for our students and staff and we have procedures in place to try to make that happen.”
Those interested can view the Emergency Response Plan and the VTRA Community Protocol at www.lpsd.ca.
Director of education for LCSD Doug Robertson said the biggest impact on his division from the events in La Loche come in the form of sheer sympathy for those personally affected.
He said he’s confident in the procedures and training LCSD has in place, and that there isn’t a feeling of fear in the local Catholic schools, but a sense of loss that must be felt by the victims and those close to them.
“First of all, it’s a tragedy in our sector; so obviously we send our sincere condolences and our prayers to the community, to the families and to the students,” he said.
“This is quite a frightening thing to happen in a community and in a school community, so as part of that we reflect in terms of what they must be going through.
“So that’s the biggest part of the impact.”
He said LCSD has procedures in place regarding threatening events in the schools and surrounding areas, and also detailed protocols in terms of response to tragic events that may occur.
They perform lockdown procedures that involve notifying police and emergency response to better prepare and protect students and staff.
“We’re ultimately as prepared as we believe we can be,” he said.

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