The halls of Rolla Junior High School were full of law enforcement, school administrators and students Tuesday morning all preparing for an event that they hope will never occur — a school shooting.
According to Lt. Jim Macormic, of the Rolla Police Department, Tuesday's hands-on training was a follow up to a number of training sessions that were held last week with more than 75 law enforcement officials from across Phelps County.
These included officials from the Rolla Police Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Phelps County Sheriff's Department, Phelps County Regional Medical Center security, officers from Missouri University of Science and Technology as well a couple of Missouri conservation agents and federal forestry law officials.
"We at the police department are always working with the school teachers and students on what to do in these violent scenarios," Macormic explained. "What we wanted to do today is connect in a real way the role of law enforcement with what we have been teaching the school officials."
The announcement of "active shooter in the building" went over the school's intercom system and teams of officers with rifles drawn were put into action and went in search of a gunman located somewhere in the school.
Fifteen-year-old Joseph Fleck was one of 30 young people who served as role players. The incoming Rolla sophomore was a gunman whose role was to kill the principal and any officers.
"We did a number of situations all over the building," said Fleck. "We had me as a single shooter and in other cases I was one of several gunmen."
"The officers did a really good job," said 20-year-old Liara Moberly.
She is a member of the Rolla Police Department's Explorer Post - a group of young people ages 15-20 who are interested in law enforcement.
"My job today was to be a screamer. I ran through the halls in a panic. I was impressed that the officers stayed calm and I wasn't shot,' Moberly said.
Macormic told the Daily News that training related to school shootings has changed a lot over the years.
Since the 1999 Columbine, Colo., school shooting that killed 12 students and one teacher, policing philosophy has changed from waiting to secure a perimeter and have a SWAT team go in to having the first officer on the scene go in on his own and seek out the suspect and eliminate a threat.
Rolla School District Superintendent Aaron Zalis said that the district has a great relationship with the police department.
"We have an open door policy with them. They have keys and access to our school buildings," Zalis said.
He added that more school specific training will take place in the district a day or two before the start of the 2013-14 school year in August.
Page 2 of 2 - "We are going to deploy a team of officers to each one of our campuses to work with teachers on situations in their home settings," he said. "The reaction of a kindergartner to an emergency situation such as this is going to be quite different than a Rolla High School student."
In his closing remarks on the morning exercises, Rolla Police Chief Mark Kearse told the crowd of more than 100 people that he was impressed.
"What we did today was practice a concept. In real life, these scenarios are total chaos," the chief said. "You guys did a phenomenal job in going in seeking out the bad guy."