Hall County School District students are off for the next couple of weeks, but teachers at Mount Vernon Exploratory School spent the first day of winter break going over safety procedures.
The school had contacted the Georgia Emergency Management Agency to walk through a crisis scenario with teachers and staff.
“It’s what we call a tabletop exercise,” GEMA School Safety Coordinator C.J. Worden said. “It’s in a stress-free environment, and (going) through a scenario that’s presented. We talk about what we would do given a crisis situation.”
Teachers talked about their reactions at various checkpoints, from calming an irate parent to dealing with a physical threat, leading up to an active shooter and hostage situation.
Worden, along with principal Connie Daniels, walked the teachers through their options in each situation.
“It was good training,” fourth-grade teacher Dana Crocker said. “It’s always good to kind of remind yourself that those things can definitely happen, but also to shed light on a situation where we can train and do things, but really it just kind of comes down to common sense.”
Using common sense in a situation often calling for a split-second decision is what the training was all about, said Hall County School Safety Coordinator Lt. Earl Roach.
“Don’t think only (to) hide under a table and turn the lights off,” Roach said. “It’s good, common sense. You may have to get out. You may have to barricade.”
An aside that came out of the discussion was to teach students in every classroom how to call the front office in an emergency; every classroom is equipped with a phone, but in a world of mobile devices, some elementary school students don’t know how to use regular dial phones.
Since the Newtown school shooting, the Hall County School District has tightened security, mandating all school visitors receive a badge upon entering any school. Gainesville City Schools also requires all visitors to check in to front offices, but Hall has taken it a step further and installed locked doors at the main entrance of every school in the system.
Further, both county and city schools have locked-door policies for exterior doors other than the main entrance.
And on Monday, the Gainesville school board approved rifles for school resource officers at Gainesville High School, Wood’s Mill Academy and Gainesville Middle School.
Daniels said her school practices lockdown drills three times a year; she’s contemplating having teachers go through a walk-through scenario with a SWAT team.
“This (training) keeps safety as a top priority in our school,” she said. “It keeps our faculty prepared and aware, not afraid and terrified.”