Perry County School District makes changes to plan for dealing with shooter

PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- Like other school districts nationwide, Perry County School District No. 32 took a "good, hard look" at its emergency procedures after the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Matt Schamburg, district safety coordinator, a Perry County Sheriff's deputy and a school resource officer, said the district's safety team considered several options for its response to a shooter. After a presentation by the Perryville Police Department, the district decided on ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.

A meeting for parents is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Perryville High School gymnasium. Each child who has at least one parent or guardian attending will receive a pass for five free homework points for any class, a district news release said. Interim Perryville police chief Direk Hunt, Perryville police Sgt. Garrett Schott and Theresa Cox, public information officer and DARE officer for the department, will present information. Schamburg will be available to answer questions from parents.

Schamburg said ALICE expands on lockdown procedures used in the past, where the school's office would warn of an intruder and everyone would lock themselves in their classrooms. ALICE offers a more proactive response to a shooter that's not limited to just a lockdown procedure, he said.

He said it offers teachers more options and gets as much information to staff members as possible so they can make a decision on how to best react to the situation.

"In some cases, locking yourself in a classroom is not the best way to survive it. If there's a possibility for them to get out of the building, they should go ahead and do that," Schamburg said.

If people in the building can't get out, ALICE training teaches students and staff to counter the threat, he said.

"They're encouraging the swarm technique. If someone makes entry into the classroom, every person runs to that person, throwing whatever they have and countering them," Schamburg said.

The addition of ALICE follows a revision to the school district's emergency operation plan adopted last summer.

Schamburg said it's a multihazard plan that puts it more in line with city and county plans and establishes an incident command system.

"If there is ever a situation with community emergency responders -- fire department, EMS, all those agencies -- responding to our school district, everyone will be on the same page," Schamburg said.

In October, Hunt and Schott trained high-school and middle-school staff. Cox, who works closely with the district, helped train staff. Schamburg said he is educated in ALICE, as well.

In March, training was given to elementary school staff, paraprofessionals, custodial, food services and maintenance staff, along with a number of substitute teachers, Schamburg said.

The next step is the informational meeting for parents, followed by age-appropriate student training, planned for this semester or the beginning of the next school year, he said.

Approval in May

Schamburg said he would bring the active-shooter update to the school board next month for their review and anticipates having it approved in May.

In an active-shooter situation, Schamburg said, a perimeter is set up around the scene so parents won't be able to access the school at all. A "reunification point" would be off campus, he said.

Once the scene is secured by police and the threat has been dealt with -- whether it's taking a suspect into custody or using deadly force -- students will be bused to the reunification site.

"That's the biggest thing: We just want parents to understand what we as a school district [are] doing to help their children. We take that responsibility very seriously," Schamburg said.

Schamburg has talked to Hunt and others to figure out the best way to train students.

"It's like an hour, hour and a half training," he said. "We haven't established what approach we'd like to take. ... I'm all about getting the students trained as soon as we can."

Along with Schamburg, the district safety team consists of school staff members, teacher representatives, the assistant superintendent, director of technology, director of food services, director of buildings, maintenance and grounds and the school nurse.

The safety team meets quarterly and has special meetings when something comes up members feel needs to be talked about.

School districts are required to conduct eight drills a year -- four announced drills during the first semester and four unannounced during the second -- for tornadoes, fires, earthquakes and intruders.

An eight-member Safety Advisory Committee meets once a year. It includes representatives from the police, fire and sheriff's department and EMS, the health department and a parent representative. It offers the safety team suggestions, asks questions and "gives us an idea of things we need to work on," Schamburg said.


Pertinent address:

326 College St., Perryville, Mo.