“We’ve reviewed the process with staff only in the past,” explains Assistant Superintendent Stephen Petrucci, “and we’re moving forward here with drills or practices with the students.”
At 10 a.m. Principal Janet Haley’s voice was broadcast over the school’s PA system saying, “This is a lockdown,” three times. Petrucci, Supervisor of Safety Services Chad Cushway, and RCMP Corporal Jodi Shelkie were stationed around the school, and report it took no more than 30 seconds for the halls to be silent. It stayed that way for the next six minutes, which may not seem that long, but can feel like a lifetime for a restless student.
“During that period we walked around and listened to doors, checked that they were locked, listened for any noise, and they did a great job,” says Petrucci, adding, “We learned a few things too.”
During the lockdown drill a parent unexpectedly came into the building, and was brought into a room by the secretary, and when a student exited the bathroom when the announcement was made, she was taken into a nearby classroom by a teacher conducting a sweep.
There have been lockdowns at North Peace schools in the past, but this is the first time that a practice has been held. The students and their parents were forewarned of the test, and their teachers had spoken to them about it in the weeks prior.
A drill will held at another school soon, and the goal is to have them held in almost all elementary schools in the district by the end of the school year.
“That will lead to a concrete policy and guidelines that, from here on in, every years schools will practice simply on their own,” says Petrucci. “Moving forward next year, schools will just have the guidelines, they’ll go ahead and practice them, and it’ll just become part of what the students learn through school.”
There will likely be another drill at École Central in the next few weeks, but without prior warning of students.
School District 60’s efforts also fall in line with the province’s ERASE Bullying program, which also aims to have consistency around the province around school safety and lockdowns. That means using the same language in every school, so everyone from staff, students, and parents to substitute teachers know what to do.
To make that easier, instead of using code phrases like, “Mr. Black is in the building,” for a Code Black, the language is clear and straightforward, like what the students heard this morning.