Recent gun incidents in schools have prompted school districts across the country to review their security and safety policies. Medical Lake is joining others in the area and ensuring its practices provide the safest learning atmosphere for its students.
Middle school assistant principal Scott Blasingame said safety committees have been in place at both the district level and in each building for a number of years. Those committees meet several times each year, reviewing and updating practices along the way.
“We take safety very seriously here,” Blasingame said.
Among the items discussed earlier this month include a revamping of security practices at each school. Areas like better monitoring of visitor access and surveillance were among the top items discussed. Most buildings in the district have surveillance measures.
Also occasionally attending those meetings are representatives from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, with whom the city of Medical Lake contracts for police service.
Blasingame said officers have been provided with new floor plans for the middle school and Hallett Elementary. Both schools are benefitting from additions that were completed last year.
Should an emergency situation requiring police presence arise, officers now have blueprints that are up to date.
“They’ll be here within minutes,” Blasingame said. “We work very closely with them.”
He said the district has even run through some drills with deputies on-site, performing a lockdown drill. Some of the information garnered from those drills have provided great results for each school, showing strengths and areas of improvement, if there are any, along the way.
“They often provide feedback on something you may not have noticed,” Blasingame said.
Fairchild Air Force Base security teams help with drills at Michael Anderson Elementary, which resides on the base’s property.
Drills are an essential part of engraining emergency procedures, and take place at regular intervals throughout the year. Among those drills practiced in the district include fire, bomb, intruder and shooter threats.
“Any time the buildings run drills, we also run a review, where we get input from staff,” Blasingame said.
He said teachers receive new emergency plans each fall, with plans changing each year.
School officials also meet with parents once a year at the district level, in an effort to provide transparency to the community.
In the near future, a plan is in place to work with students on security. Among the items likely to be brought up are making sure students know who to speak to, should they encounter a suspicious situation, such as someone asking for entrance to the building from a side door.
“What do you do if you see a person without a badge,” he said.
The student handbook for both the middle school and high school detail information for students in the district. Handbook text can be found on the district’s website at www.mlsd.org/Page/149 for the middle school and www.mlsd.org/Page/1479 for the middle school. A summary of Medical Lake School District’s emergency preparedness is also posted on the district website. Blasingame is also available to answer questions members of the public may have, and can be reached at 565-3003.
Incidents like the Newtown, Conn. massacre, Blasingame said, can stir up emotions in any community.
“It raises everybody’s sense of concern with that incident,” he said. “You have to have an open mind.”
Above all, providing timely and accurate information to parents is an important step in the process. It ensures everyone is on the same page and helps to provide an openness with the community. The district sends out reports via email, phone and regular mail when and if an emergency situation arises.
“Whenever we have a situation that’s not a drill, we communicate with parents, telling them that we had to follow through with the emergency situation,” Blasingame said.
James Eik can be reached at email@example.com.