Although sparsely attended, the Port Townsend School District's safety meeting for parents Sept. 17 yielded some discussion and new information on the ongoing ALICE training this school year.
Justin Gray, one of the three Port Townsend School District staff members now certified as an ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) instructor, reviewed some of the other security measures PT schools have installed, including security cameras and access controls.
“If an incident is reported, we can review it in the video footage,” Gray said.
And the access controls have switched the schools from physical keys to electronic cards and locks, which can be programmed to allow access at specific dates and times.
“If someone should only have access to a building, say, Saturday between the hours of 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., we can program that,” Gray said. “And if you lose your card, we just delete it from the system and issue you a new one, rather than having to recode the entire building.”
Likewise, Gray touted the ability to lock all the external doors on campus with an electronic signal in 10 seconds, as opposed to school staff physically going to each door.
Another measure, which Gray expects to be installed shortly, is a security vestibule at Blue Heron Middle School, which could be complete as early as next week, and at Salish Coast Elementary, which Gray anticipates being done within “a couple of weeks.”
“In order to get into the building, you'll have to be buzzed in through a second set of doors,” Gray said.
Port Townsend High School Principal Carrie Ehrhardt, another of the three certified ALICE instructors on staff, noted the five steps in its acronym are based on 15 years of research.
“There are two ways to respond to violence,” Ehrhardt said. “Take care of it, or get out of harm's way.”
Those who are qualified to “take care of it” on the ALICE scale of training are first responders, who are rated as “professionals,” the highest level of qualification, while school staff who are ALICE certified qualify as “advanced,” the next highest level.
“We're not capable of counterattacking, but we can lead others to safety,” Ehrhardt said.
Below the “professional” and “advanced” qualifications of ALICE lies a whole range of qualification levels, tailored to the developmental levels of the students themselves.
High school students will be trained to be “independent,” applying ALICE training on their own and coordinating with adults to lead others to safety, while middle school students will be trained to be “proficient,” capable of performing the steps needed to make themselves safe without adults, if needed.
The older elementary grades will be trained to be “practiced,” assisting adults by locking doors and moving furniture if needed, while the younger elementary grades will be trained for the “developing” level, able to carry out adult instructions such as turning out the lights and finding first aid kits.
“And younger than that is the 'early' level,” Ehrhardt said. “They're completely reliant on adult direction.”
Because ALICE training is so developmentally targeted, Ehrhardt pointed out growing students will need to undergo a new round of training every year.
“This makes them more and more confident and proficient,” Ehrhardt said. “We will be drilling students in the second half of the school year, but we will not be dressing people up to come into the halls or acting out scenes. Again, we don't believe in using scare tactics. Instead, scenarios will be delivered by the teachers, who will discuss with students and decide upon the appropriate responses.”
According to Ehrhardt, such discussions will take into account the unique features of each school.
“Because the high school is set up like a college campus, with so many separate buildings, you can have an emergency in one area and evacuate the rest of the school,” Ehrhardt said. “And Salish Coast has so many windows that it affords greater visibility, so you can see what's coming.”
Ehrhardt passed around activity books that had been made for K-2 students, to prepare them for ALICE training, and promised that any such drills would be preceded by correspondence home to the students' parents.