School tackles safety
MANISTIQUE – Following Friday’s tragic shooting at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school that left 20 children and six adults dead, the Manistique Area School District will be reviewing their lockdown and emergency response procedures. The action was discussed during Monday’s meeting of the Manistique Board of Education.
According to Manistique Middle/High School Principal John Shiner, two meetings were held Monday, one with students in grades six through eight, and one with grades nine through 12.
“The younger kids were clearly more shaken up about it than the older kids,” he said. “We talked very openly and honestly about the tragic situation that took place. I wanted them to know that we are aware of it, and we care about them, and, to the best of our ability, we’re going to provide a safe environment for them.”
Shiner spoke with the students talked about the tragedy in Connecticut and explained feelings of uneasiness were expected. He also noted that he offered the students counselors to vent their emotions about the shooting.
“We did have some young people take us up on that this morning, which I thought was very good,” he said.
While Shiner acknowledged the shootings prompted the meetings, he noted the rarity of such an event was also explained to the students.
“Although there has been a lot of these events in the media lately, they are still a relatively rare occasion, based on the number of people,” he said. “Kids get it in their minds, because they see it on TV, that it’s necessarily going to happen, and that it’s imminent. I just wanted them to know that it’s okay to lead a normal life and it’s okay to be status quo and you should go about your business and try to establish normalcy as soon as possible.”
Shiner said he also discussed the school’s plan if such a situation ever occurred at the middle/high school.
“We do have a plan in place in this district,” he said. “We have not run a lockdown practice, and it’s unfortunate that, just like a family reunion – sometimes you only get together over funerals, it seems like it’s a very common thing to do is practice these things after school tragedies.”
A plan to practice the lockdown is in the works, Shiner added.
In the Manistique Middle/High School student handbook, available on the school’s website, no lockdown procedure is detailed. During the meeting, Shiner pointed out that staff would be alerted of a lockdown via intercom.
As for Emerald Elementary, Principal Erik Mason explained a normal amount of parents were seen on Monday, and that the shootings in Connecticut did not prompt an influx. He also added the staff was given a list of talking points and guidelines for addressing any student concerns about the shooting that may arise.
On Tuesday, Mason noted the school maintains a locked and secured facility daily, pointing out each visitor is monitored on video and cleared for entry by either himself or another staff member. He also explained the teachers lock each classroom door while in session.
In the student handbook available on Emerald Elementary’s website, it is noted the school is required by state law to have two lockdown drills each year.
“The purpose of these drills is to teach children how to be safe in the event of an actual emergency,” the handbook states. “These procedures have been developed in collaboration with local and state law enforcement officials.”
The handbook also notes the school’s security system, which includes security cameras, motion detectors, and controlled points of entry.
According to Superintendent Kathy McDonough, the district will be readdressing its lockdown procedures in light of the shooting and the addition of two new principals, Shiner and Mason, this year.
“I will be contacting Ken Golat, (Manistique) public safety director, asking for a sit down between public safety, state police, county sheriff, and Sault (Ste. Marie) tribal (police) so that we are all on the same page if, God forbid, anything is needed in this realm,” she said.