Education

Sandy Hook incident still impacting security measures at local schools

It was four years, Wednesday, since the Sandy Hook massacre.

And it was an event that encouraged school administrators to rethink safety procedures in the event of a threat, including at local schools.

At least one administrator said the biggest improvement, in addition to a new safety policy, was the school district’s communication with law enforcement.

Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District Superintendent Gregg Paladina said even more of it was put into perspective when a first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis, visited P-O last school year to talk about the incident and what can be learned from the mass shooting.

Roig-DeBellis locked her students in a bathroom when a shooter entered the school, helping save her students from the attacker.

ALICE program is a popular safety measure at many local schools

This school year, Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School is rolling out the Alert, Lockdown, Information, Counter and Evacuate program.

Administrators said faculty and staff were trained for the new safety measure by participating in drills that mimic realistic threats.

They expect students to also be trained with the program, which Chairman of the school’s Safety Committee Bill Ewing said is made age-appropriate, by March 1.

That will be followed by schoolwide intruder drills.

Teacher and school spokeswoman Crystal Confer said ALICE is a commonly used option of evacuating to a predetermined rendezvous point, “which was successful in Sandy Hook.”

We can use counter measures to ensure our survival by distracting the intruder instead of sitting and waiting when action is required

Crystal Confer, Young Scholars teacher

“We can use counter measures to ensure our survival by distracting the intruder instead of sitting and waiting when action is required,” Confer said.

It’s the same program used at other local school districts, including Philipsburg-Osceola Area.

Paladina said it was implemented last school year and promotes the run-hide-fight mentality instead of the use of a “shelter in place” program.

“There’s a lot of research that shows that, unless you’re locked in, then evacuate and leave, and fight for survival,” Paladina said. “A lot of mass casualty events happen when people try to hide. If you run, you’re more likely to live. We’ve known this for a while, and saw this in the case at Sandy Hook.”

Some professional development days have been used for training that puts district employees in intruder-type situations.

Some ALICE training at P-O comes with help from local law enforcement

And much of the help comes at the hands of local police who are familiar with the ALICE program, and work to implement it at schools that serve Centre County residents.

Paladina said the district has a relationship with state police at Philipsburg and Clearfield barracks.

“I think our cooperation and communication with police has been better since Sandy Hook,” Paladina said.

He said troopers have been on hand to help answer questions for district employees, students and parents or guardians of students in the district.

They also work with employees during training sessions, and have full access to schools at P-O, Paladina said.

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare at the thought of losing a child. These drills can be emotional, but it’s worth it if we’re able to help save a child

Gregg Paladina, P-O superintendent

“It’s a parent’s worst nightmare at the thought of losing a child,” Paladina said. “These drills can be emotional, but it’s worth it if we’re able to help save a child. ... Our first priority is to get them to safety and then account for them.”

P-O also increased safety measures at its four schools by installing surveillance cameras and securing entrances and exits.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

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