By Oliver Lazenby
The Blaine School District addressed safety concerns and emergency-crisis planning in a letterposted on the district’s website on March 1. District superintendent Ron Spanjer wrote the letter in response to recent school-related tragedies and a misdirected email threat that the district received on February 22 that originated in Blaine, Minnesota.
According to the letter, the district looks at safety planning through four lenses: prevention and mitigation, preparation, incident response and incident recovery.
In addition to social/emotional support, the district has the following in place to prevent safety threats:
- Automated and non-automated procedures for campus wide lockdown announcement
- Cell phone and two-way radio communication between buildings and to Blaine Police Department
- An anonymous tip reporting system
- New door locking mechanisms, with more on the way in the high school remodel
- Video surveillance
The district is also retrofitting interior doors to be lockable from inside. Staff can electronically lock new exterior doors at Blaine Primary School in an emergency, and the new high school will have the same features once complete, Spanjer said.
The district prepares for emergencies through lockdown drills and other training. The Blaine Police Department participates in those lockdown drills. Additionally, city, county and federal law enforcement conduct drills in school district buildings, and all levels of law enforcement and responders have electronic maps of all district buildings.
To communicate with the community during an incident, the district uses a telephone alert system and is working on a new website format to allow faster updates during a crisis.
No two incidents are the same, Spanjer said, but in a crisis the district’s first priority is to “get students and staff secured so that law enforcement and emergency responders can carry out their responsibilities,” the letter read.
The fourth pillar of the school’s emergency plan is incident recovery and accounting for all students after an incident. Currently, the district plans to “reunify” students and staff on campus. The district is networking with other districts and analyzing other plans.
The letter also outlines the district’s plans for the future, which include more hours for a school resource officer, continuing to improve door locking systems and more staff training.
Currently, a half-time Blaine police officer is contracted with the district to be present for part of the day with an emphasis on arrival, dismissal and lunchtime, but is on campus for much of the rest of the school day, Spanjer said in a phone interview.
The district has had a half-time student resource officer for roughly five years, Spanjer said. Before that, Blaine officers frequented campus but didn’t have an obligation to.
“The objective is to have as much of that time as possible to interact with students during more informal periods of the day and to be visible during the larger-scale transition times,” Spanjer said.
For more information, see Spanjer’s complete letter at Blaine.wednet.edu.