School district has emergency and safety protocols in place

“Everybody works together, and everybody is interconnected”

[  By Kendra Walker  ]

This fall, Gunnison Watershed School District emergency manager Hannah Hanson gave a presentation to the school board regarding the district’s emergency management and school safety protocols. 

Creating safe schools is the district’s top priority, which has also been voiced as a priority of the school district’s recently passed ballot measure 5A for expansion and facility improvements. According to the district’s school safety philosophy, the priority is “to invest in creating positive school cultures and climates where every student and adult feels they belong and are connected to other people. Connection and belonging are our most important strategy in preventing violence.”

The district’s emergency operations plan includes the following protocols: 

• Hold all classes – used when common areas need to remain clear to address a medical or safety concern such as when a student becomes ill or injured. Students remain in classrooms and instruction continues. 

• Lockout – used to secure the perimeter as a preventative measure when there is a threat or danger outside the school building, such as when an animal wanders onto campus. Instruction continues but no one is allowed to exit the building. 

• Lockdown – used to protect building occupants from dangers in the building or external threats that enter the building. Instruction ceases and protocol is followed until the situation is resolved. 

• Evacuation – used when remaining in the building is unsafe, such as during a fire or gas leak. 

• Shelter in place – used when building occupants must remain in the school for extended periods of time, often for a weather emergency. 

Hanson noted that a secure perimeter is the standard for buildings every day across the board. “We have lock entrances to our buildings so we know who’s coming and going,” she said. “We’re trying to get teachers out of the habit of propping doors open. It’s not that much extra work than to lock the door and come back in.”

The district holds required drills, including on-site and off-site evacuation drills, and holds a lockdown preparedness day. “Each teacher spends time talking to their students about what to do in situations, how to react in certain situations, getting the overall picture of it,” said Hanson.

When asked about how well prepared the schools are in handling emergencies, Hanson was confident that the system works. “We have good systems in place. We have it broken down into good steps that it really works seamlessly.” 

She continued, “There’s a lot of unknowns, but we have such good relationships with all our community players so I don’t worry about it knowing how everyone else would help us out,” said Hanson, noting the strong partnerships with local law enforcement agencies and fire departments, Gunnison County Office of Emergency Management, Gunnison Valley Health EMS and other entities. “Everybody works together, and everybody is interconnected,” she said. 

The district also utilizes two resources to help ensure student safety, called GoGuardian and Safe2Tell. 

GoGuardian filters and monitors all district devices and devices on district networks, alerting staff when certain keywords are searched. This gives staff the ability to see the context of what was searched and respond appropriately. Hanson noted that GoGuardian works on school-issued devices even when they’re offsite. 

Safe2Tell is an anonymous tip line system for students to report anything, such as threats, suicide, drug use and mental health needs. “It’s a tool they can utilize without fear of retaliation,” said Hanson. It is managed through Colorado State Patrol, handled by school administrators during school hours, and law enforcement after hours. Colorado State Patrol also follows up if no action is taken on a report. 

Hanson said that she would like to work more on safety training for substitute teachers. “A lot of our subs that have been around for a while know…but especially lately we have so much turnover with subs and I would like to have better, more thorough safety training for subs other than just the bare bones, here’s your badge, here’s your key, here’s your class, take it and run with it. We’ll get there eventually.” Hanson also noted that she holds regular check-ins with superintendent Leslie Nichols as well as each site incident commander/assistant principal, and has several safety-related trainings on the docket this school year.

“This is so well defined,” said board member LeeAnn Mick. “When I walk into a building or classroom, I see and I know where I can go to get the information that I need.”

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