By Jane Ernsberger
Times-Junction News Editor
The Willard City Schools conducted a lockdown and partial evacuation of campus on Monday. The Willard Police Department, Willard Fire & Rescue and the Huron County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the drill, according to Superintendent Jeff Ritz.
“It went like a typical drill,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure students are prepared, know what they are doing and are cooperating.”
There is nothing typical about the reason for the drill, he noted. With all of the students under one roof, as opposed to the outlying buildings of the past, efforts can be focused on one building. In the past, several of the schools were outside the city limits.
“It’s a blessing to have such a facility,” Ritz pointed out. “As I talk to other superintendents, they are envious of what we have.”
Security has continuously been upgraded at the Willard City Schools. According to Ritz, the top focus is the safety of students and staff, which numbers over 1,700 each day.
“Every adult who comes into the building and is going past the front office must have a driver’s license,” he explained. “Their license is scanned for a background check, and then it prints a visitor ID badge.”
Ritz said there is also an electronic entrance system at each door.
“It’s only as good as we are,” he pointed out. “Sometimes someone will prop the door open to let someone in. We stress to everyone do not open the door.”
The Willard Police Department has trained the staff on the ALICE techniques, Ritz noted. The program involves Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Confront and Evacuate. There are steps students and staff members can use to try and be as safe as possible in the case of an armed intruder.
“We are now in the process of passing that knowledge onto our students,” he noted.
Lockdown evacuation drills could have the tendency to be as common place for students as fire drills. Ritz said there are steps to help students treat each drill as real. The district is using more scenario training, making situations more realistic. This, he noted, should help to limit that thinking.
“We have also started looking at what we teach our own children,” Ritz said. “Things like when you go to the mall. What if something happens and you become separated and can’t get back to your meeting point.
“We are trying to teach the kids what to do if any situation and to be prepared,” he added. “We are just starting this year.”
All of the students in the Willard City Schools have seen a video with ALICE training.
“This is a start for where we are headed,” Ritz noted. “We’ve got to protect everybody.
“We want them to know if you see something, say something,” he added. “Tell the administration. Tell the police.”
During the exercise, all classes went into lockdown. The evacuation was on a partial level and saw those students leaving the building as administrators and police assessed the time needed.
Changing the culture of the school district has been a priority, according to Ritz.
“We have to create a culture of a safe environment,” he pointed out. “We are putting a lot of time and effort into creating a safe environment.”