Southwest reviews response to lockdown

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Tilford: ‘Communication within the building was excellent’

The Southwest school district made some important discoveries concerning it performance amid the busy steps of a campus lockdown recently.

On Jan. 15, Rene Jalbert, 37, of Cassville, caused the district to implement a lockdown when he arrived on campus and knocked on a window at the middle school. Jalbert had been removed from Southwest school grounds in the past, and a letter was sent to him saying he was not allowed on district property. There is also an active restraining order against him, and the person who has that order was on campus at the time.

Tosha Tilford, Southwest superintendent, said communication is key to improving any situation or circumstances that the district faces.

“I reflect after every situation, personally,” she said. “But, it is equally as important to debrief as a group or team.”

During the debriefing of the lockdown, the district discovered several positive findings.

“Communication within the building was excellent, per the principals, and teachers did an excellent job accounting for all the students,” she said. “There were students moving from the high school to the middle school when the lockdown was instituted, and an elementary teacher got those students to a safe place and let the appropriate school building know where the students were located.”

Additionally, the lockdown occurred at a time that students were accessing the playground, and central office staff immediately got those teachers and students to a safe location.

“[In reference to that situation], a fence is going to be installed around the elementary playground, and there will be a gate directly to the central office so that the teachers and students can quickly move into a safe place,” Tilford said. “[Additionally], there will be an installation of two outdoor speakers, one pointing at the playground and one pointing at the bus barn, so that anyone outdoors can hear the alert.”

To assist in the success of the lockdown, staff immediately began to check buildings for locked doors and students, and covering the campus looking for any unsafe situation.

“The Barry County Sheriff’s Office was very expedient in their arrival to the school district,” Tilford said. “And, the security cameras were extremely helpful in identifying the vehicle of the trespasser.”

Tilford said there were also some changes that needed to be implemented to improve our response time and communication.

“[This includes] educating students on the differences in an intruder, trespasser, investigation, illness and emergency situation,” she said. “And, every office phone will have instructions on how to do a lockdown building specific and district-wide.”

During the lockdown, changes to the drill and alarm sounds were made for a clearer understanding.

“A change in the order of the alert has been made to the automated alarm system, [so now it will] talk prior to sounding an alarm so that teachers will have immediate knowledge of type of alert,” Tilford said. “Additionally, all drills and actual alerts were changed to have the same sound.”

Finally, Tilford realized during the lockdown that she was unable to make a RoboCall while she is mobile.

“A script and instructions to make a RoboCall is available for all administrators, as I cannot make a RoboCall when I am mobile, so someone else must be available to make it when I instruct them,” she said. “It is always important to reflect and debrief so that the appropriate changes can be made to improve any situation. 

“The process does not end and improvement is continuous.”

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