It’s the week before snow shut down area schools for a week. At 9:12 a.m., Fremont Middle School Principal Ben Bentea makes an announcement.
“Teachers, secure your classroom, this is a lockdown,” he said. “This is a drill.”
And with that announcement, the school went into its third Standard Response Protocol practice session on consecutive Wednesdays. Only this year, the drills come with a different twist — changes that school officials hope will improve safety for staff and students.
Once the doors were locked, office staff went to the front windows to post the lockdown signs to let people know that they can’t come in while the incident is in progress.
Some teachers had their students practice barricading their classroom door with furniture, desks and anything else they could pile in front of it, to make it tougher for an intruder to get into the room.
Bentea said the school has always had emergency protocol systems in place. The students practice lockout, lockdown, fire drills and earthquake drills every year. But changes in training this year aim to get community and first responders more on the same page.
“What’s different this year is that we’re using the ‘I love You Guys’ verbiage and terminology, so that it’s consistent among all buildings,” Bentea said. “It has lockout, lockdown, shelter in place and evacuate and then we also include some of the ALICE components too.”
The “I Love U Guys” Foundation was started in 2006 by the parents of a girl who lost her life in a school shooting. Its programs have been implemented by more than 25,000 schools, and organizations in the U.S. and Canada.
The new ALICE training (alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate) teaches a more proactive response to active shooters, including barricading the doors, self defense tactics, and self-evacuation.
“ALICE’s approach is three things ... take off, hide out or take out, so if you can self-evacuate and you think it’s safe, no sense in hiding out,” Bentea said. “If (the threat) is close by and you think hiding out is the best thing, barricade the door and hide out the best you can. And if necessary try to take out the shooter.”
Tracy Grauf, facilities director for the Roseburg School District, was an observer for drills at Fremont. He said the schools have been practicing the protocol for several years, but the ALICE approach adds some different components to their training, emphasizing barricading and having a fight plan, and encouraging the teachers to do what is best for the students at that moment.
“The information we’re getting now is saying lockdown if appropriate, and get out if appropriate,” Grauf said. “We’re trying to tell them to not get locked into one thing and use situational awareness and don’t just go blindly, but go away from the action and get as far away as you can.”
“Safety and security of our students is our No. 1 priority and I hold that more valuable than math and science and English, I think that’s the biggest thing that keeps me up at night, if you can’t be safe you can’t learn,” Bentea said.
Roseburg Schools Superintendent Lee Paterson said the district takes the drills seriously and he wants the community to know what they’re doing to protect the students and teachers in the schools.
“It’s to our great advantage to have our community know that we are prepared and working on improving our evacuation and shelter plans on a daily basis and we will be constantly upgrading those this year and hopefully having some extensive training beginning in the fall,” Paterson said.
The school officials plan to continue the training once each semester to keep the procedure fresh in the minds of students.