School Board OKs drill despite concerns

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School Board members were urged to move forward with caution Monday night when asked to sanction the district's participation in a mass-casualty drill.

And though they had concerns about a plan that would make Moffat County one of the first school districts in the nation to conduct a drill while students are in their classrooms, they also agreed there were benefits.

On May 8, a rogue parent with a vendetta against the school district will enter Craig Middle School bearing a gun.

The rest of the scenario is sketchy. The goal is to plan carefully while not giving emergency responders all the details, school district Maintenance Supervisor Mike Taylor said.

High-school student actors have signed up to play the victims.

Middle-school students will hear the shots.

They'll hear the sirens and see smoke coming from the second floor, but the closest they'll get to the action is when a police officer bursts into their classroom searching for victims and the gunman.

Middle-school students will be told the details of the drill in advance, and their teachers will walk them through the steps on the day of the event.

Their parents will decide whether their children will participate.

Taylor asked the Moffat County School District Board of Education on Monday to appr-ove the district's participation in the drill and warned them that saying "yes" could mean facing some backlash from parents concerned about involving students.

"I just wanted everyone to be prepared," Taylor said. "I think we are kind of treading on new territory here."

Taylor got the go-ahead from the School Board, but the plan will be modified.

Board member Gary Ellgen was concerned about the effect of having an armed police officer charging into a classroom would have on students.

"I don't know that we have to bring the real world on our students quite so dramatically," he said.

Although students will be prepared in advance and have discussions with counselors afterward, it was decided the entry will be reconsidered.

Others had few concerns.

"As far as having our blessing and support, definitely, because I think the more kids practice this, God forbid, the more prepared they would be if it were to really happen," Board President John Wellman said.

According to Taylor, everyone will be notified of the event -- including school neighbors and Denver TV stations -- so that inaccurate information isn't released on the day of the drill and no one panics.

Taylor hopes that many parents will choose to participate by recreating a "realistic" response -- including jamming the phone lines in search of information, lining up at the school seeking answers and rushing to other schools to pull siblings from classrooms.

"I think it's very educational," said Board member JoAnn Baxter, who remembers the eff-ect that a DUI simulation held several years ago had on students.

Parents will have the option to pull their children from school that day if they fear the effect that the simulation will have on their children.

"The scenario is to make it as real as we possibly can," Taylor said.

"If parents don't want their kids to participate, they can pick them up and take them home and watch 'Terminator 3.'

"This is going to be beneficial to them."

A parent meeting will be held before the drill to discuss what will happen during the event.

Emergency responders worked this scenario in an eight hour tabletop drill.

"It made me believe we're going to save people and save kids if this were to happen," Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan said. "We need to practice."

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