FARMINGTON — The Regional School Unit 9 School Safety Committee held a forum at Mt. Blue High School on Wednesday, Oct. 24 in order to discuss safety topics and procedures with the community.
The committee is a collaborative effort of administrators, law enforcement officials, and local and county first responders.
Mt. Blue Middle School Principal James Black read the committee mission statement before discussing current safety practices.
“RSU 9 is committed to the safety and security of students, staff and visitors within RSU 9 facilities. Collaboration, professional development and partnerships are necessary for the success of the safety plan and emergency management efforts. These efforts include prevention, preparedness, response, recovery and procedures relevant to potential natural and human-caused crises,” he said.
Black said the committee meets monthly to review safety plans, which are updated as necessary. The district utilizes emergency flipcharts, which dictate safety procedures for a variety of scenarios, he said.
“We look at and discuss current national and worldwide threats. They are constantly changing,” noted Black.
He was quick to point out a crisis could include a flood, rabid animal or other natural threat.
Drills take place in schools throughout the year so students and staff can be familiar with them. Black said schools practice fire, lock-out and lockdown drills.
A lock-out may be called when there is an external security issue outside the building. A lock-out will keep staff and students within the building and limit access to the school.
A lockdown may be called when there is a security issue on the school grounds or closely affecting the school campus which may create a situation where students, guests, and staff would be most effective to stay put, get out of sight, and secure their location. When a lockdown occurs, no one except emergency personnel will be permitted access to the building.
Staff and committee members also seek out new learning opportunities and professional development in order to keep educated about safety practices, Black said.
Farmington Police Chief Jack Peck said school staff had received Avoid, Deny, Defend trailing.
“ADD training empowers people to take proactive measures in crisis situations. The main goal is to avoid the problem or threat. Then deny the threat entry into the space. Finally, we are trying to make sure people feel empowered to defend themselves if it comes down to it,” said Peck.
Peck said three Farmington officers are qualified to give ADD training to anyone that wants to have it. He said more than 1,000 people from schools, hospitals, and nursing homes have received the training.
“It has been proven to be effective,” he said.
Other resources used in the district include Automated External Defibrillators in each school; district personnel trained in CPR; a School Resource Officer at the middle school and high school; and nursing, counselors, and social workers. Each school also has a buzzer entry system and visitor procedure as part of the safety plan.
Also discussed was the plan to notify parents and the community in the event of a crisis.
“This is a tough one,” said Superintendent Tina Meserve. “It never seems like the information is released quick enough. A lot of times we won’t have all the information. Sometimes in an active investigation, law enforcement won’t share all the details.”
If a crisis were to ever take place, the superintendent will notify staff, students and parents through school outlets as Power Announce, email, and website updates. Meserve suggested community members share information released by officials rather than make assumptions.
Peck said members of the media would be invited to a future committee meeting to discuss how information could be best presented to news outlets.
“The important part is everyone here trains together. We are all local partners. Obviously, we take this seriously. The safety of students and staff is paramount. It is important to know we are being proactive,” said Peck.
Black added the committee is seeking community input by involving parents on the committee. In the future, student representation may also be included.