MASON — Since the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Mason County Schools has joined several schools nationwide that are re-examining and increasing their security procedures, with their next step taking place on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Wahama Junior/Senior High School will be holding an Active WV Safe Schools Drill, where the school will act as though a shooter is in the building and students, staff, and local law enforcement will run through their response as though the situation were real.
Jack Cullen, administrative assistant for the superintendent, spoke at the most recent meeting of the Mason County Board of Education on the drill, saying it will proceed as if there were a shooter in the building and the secretaries will call 911. The premise continues, with the secretaries claiming there is no one needing medical attention and there have been no students shot.
Cullen said the nearest SWAT Team is located in Charleston so if a situation like this occurred in Mason County the first responders would be the local law enforcement and this drill is necessary to ensure everyone’s preparedness. The drill will include officers from Mason and New Haven, as well as officers from the Mason County Sheriff’s Department.
Officer Troy Stewart with the Sheriff’s Department also spoke to the board on the drill, saying the school will be thoroughly searched and all of the involved officers’ weapons will be empty and checked several times by different parties to ensure they are empty. Cullen also noted they would practice evacuating the school with some of the students moving to the parking lot in front of the school, and other students moving into the Walmart parking lot.
Cullen said Wahama was chosen for the drill since it has the simplest layout of the county schools and that they hope to perform the drill at other schools in the future. Cullen continued, saying information would be sent home to parents so they would be made aware of the drill, as well as releasing information to the Point Pleasant Register so others would be aware the situation is only a drill.
Superintendent Suzanne Dickens previously spoke on Mason County Schools’ security measures, saying entrances at the front door of every county school must be granted via a buzzer system and every other outside door remains locked at all times.
Dickens also discussed emergency drills the schools have in place, listing a shelter-in-place drill, a fire drill and a lockdown drill. Dickens noted the shelter-in-place drill involves something potentially harmful in the atmosphere and having the students gather in the hallway or another pre-determined location where there is limited ventilation and no window access.
During the fire drill, the students and staff evacuate the building and gather at a pre-determined location outside of the school, and during the lockdown drill, blinds are pulled and doors are locked and students are secured in their classroom or another pre-determined location.
Also at a previous meeting, Facilities Director Ruth Caplinger and Maintenance Director Cameron Moffett spoke to board members on some ways the security information and drills could be improved, saying certain drills are color coded, such as a “code red,” but the color coding was not the same at every location with the suggestion of making the color coded drills congruent across the county.
Caplinger also said she had encouraged school principals and staff to simply keep an eye on who in the school are wearing identification badges as well as visitor stickers and passes, as a way to keep an eye on who is coming in and out of the schools.