Instead of teaching students to hide under their desks and wait if an armed intruder gets into a school building, Newburg school officials are hoping to teach them a new strategy known as the A.L.I.C.E. method.
Newburg R-II School District Board President Jim Macormic said he wants students to forget what they have been taught in the past in terms of how to respond to an armed intruder on school property.
Instead, Macormic wants to start teaching students the A.L.I.C.E. method, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate.
Macormic, a Rolla Police Department officer and instructor in active school shootings, told the other board members and superintendent during a school board meeting Dec. 20 that he is available to talk to students in the classrooms about the new training strategy for defending against violent intruders.
However, before that, it was suggested that Macormic talk with teachers first to refresh their training.
“A lot of situations we’re going to talk about is scatter, go, duck and weave as you’re going. It’s hard to hit a moving target,” Macormic said. “We’ve got to break the mold. These kids are acting the way they’ve been trained from little kids all the way up. What everybody has been trained is the same as a tornado drill, duck and hide. And that’s what instinctively they do.
“If you lock down a room, you are not secure,” Macormic said, noting that with the A.L.I.C.E. concept, when people hear shots, they are to go in the opposite direction. “You don’t just sit in the classroom and wait ... We’ve educated the teachers, but we’ve got to get the kids on board with it too.”
When Newburg High School Principal Steve Guffey asked at what age group would be appropriate to start training or what level of information should be provided to students, Macormic replied, “It’s a fine line that you walk to where you start giving out information where you scare the kids but you’re giving out information that could save some lives too.”
Macormic said he would let the board decide those questions but noted that the training and information would be presented in different ways depending on the grade level.
“Now would be the time to do it because of things that have happened,” Guffey said. “People are going to be glad that you’re teaching their kids. Now not everybody is going to agree with the method that you use. They may not agree with a lockdown and hide in a corner. They may not agree with this A.L.I.C.E. program. I personally think that instead of just locking our doors ... we certainly need to be more proactive.”
Page 2 of 3 - Newburg Elementary School Principal Russ Mudd suggested using a siren, noting that the sound can draw an intruder’s attention, even if it may be only for a few seconds. Macormic said an intercom system is important to have, too.
During the board’s discussion on school safety, school board member Kent Burke asked Macormic what he thinks of teachers with guns.
“I’m for it,” Macormic said, “but you’re not going to have one of these people (staff or teachers) trained up to the level of a police officer.”
Guffey also noted that after funding got cut, small school districts, like Newburg, couldn’t afford to have a school resource officer.
School board member Glenn Suschanke, Jr., who also works at the Phelps County Sheriff’s Department, said the response time for law enforcement to arrive at Newburg Schools should be considered.
“If our county cars are in Edgar Springs, we’re talking a good hard run…you’re talking 20-30 minutes,” Suschanke said.
From Rolla, it would take seven to 10 minutes unless a trooper or deputy is in the area, according to Macormic.
Board vice president Clay Austin also talked about the security risk of entry doors being mostly or entirely made of glass.
As part of Guffey’s Missouri School Improvement Plan (MSIP) accountability plan report to the board, he mentioned limiting visitors who come back to see teachers or other students because of “recent events.”
Beginning last week as a safety precaution and until further notice, the doors at the elementary end of the Newburg school campus will be locked from 8:10 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. People who come to the school are being asked to contact the elementary office before they arrive.
The high school has not been locked because high school students have to go outside often, said John Westerman, superintendent of Newburg Schools.
During the public comments section of the meeting, Dennis Mesplay told the board, “I’m hearing from a lot of parents, and we’re all happy that we are locked down, but their main concern is the locked doors when the kids are going on the playground. They say by the time a teacher unlocks and gets everybody back in, they’re just kind of like sitting ducks out there.”
Mesplay is one of two individuals who havefiled for the school board as of Dec. 20. The other is incumbent Clay Austin.
Mudd said there is a way to keep the doors unlocked to get the students back in quickly.
“The best thing for them may not be to go back in,” Macormic said. “There are a few situations you would being them back in ... We appreciate your comment and we want to hear what people are saying.”
Page 3 of 3 - “You can take every precaution there is,” Suschanke added. “If they want to steal something, they’re going to find a way to do it.”
Westerman said he has been looking into buzzer systems in which visitors would have to “buzz in” on an intercom system and staff could view the visitors via camera monitors.
“We’re looking at two systems that we can buy and put in ourselves,” Westerman said, noting that the school’s doors may not be the kind that can be adapted for one of the systems.
If the doors are not adaptable, it would be $300 per set of doors, Westerman said, but if they are adaptable, it would cost $600 or $700 per door set. If doors will not work with a system, then staff would physically have to get up and walk to the door and let the visitor in, which is why it would be cheaper than controlling the door from a staff office.