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Danger seems to lurk around every corner, but school is supposed to be a safe haven for children to excel in learning and to feel protected. That vision has since changed for most parents and students as they watch the news and hear of more school shootings and threats across the country. It’s not a new concept by any means, but school shootings have been making headlines recently and more and more steps are being taken to prevent this from happening to the Lincoln County School Districts.
Currently, the Troy R-III School District has been experiencing Active Shooter Drills that are being performed by the Lincoln County Sheriffs Office. This drill simulates what you might see if an intruder does manage to get into the building. These are taking place in the buildings after school hours while the children are out of the building. Teachers and staff clear the drill area and are asked to return after everything is set up. The teachers are placed down the hallway so they are directly in the middle of the situation. The intruder is armed with a large gun that has blank casings to simulate the sounds that would be taking place if it were to happen. Fireworks in trashcans add to the sound and smoke, making it more chaotic during the drill.
Tricia Moore, a fifth grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary said, “I wasn’t nervous or afraid prior to or during the drill. My mindset was that of ‘this is a learning experience, and I need to take in all the information that I can from this’. I prepared myself by thinking this is all practice and no one is really getting hurt today.”
The buildings all knew that they were going to be participating in an Active Shooter Drill but weren’t released any more information so it felt more realistic to them. “I am proud to say that the school district is being proactive about this situation and not closed minded. We all hope and pray that this will never happen but we do need to be prepared in the case that it should,” Moore noted.
Lieutenant Andy Binder spoke about the drills that have taken place so far. “We are working together with the schools to make sure a plan is in place incase something should ever happen. Before John Cottle took over as Sheriff, the last drill was in 2008 and it was a weekend activity. There were no teachers involved in the process and we only performed the drills at the High School. This year we are visiting all the Troy schools and ask for the teachers to be present so they are able to improve on the plans that are in place for their classroom. We will be reaching out to the other school districts once we are finished with the R-III schools so everyone is prepared.”
“I think it was good experience to have for the teachers,” said Kurt Vogelpohl, a fifth grade teach at Boone Elementy. “It helped to prepare us even though we weren’t directly involved in the situation, we still got to see the action and hear how loud it is so we are stronger for the students if it were to happen.”
The raw emotions of the teachers could be seen as the intruder fired his gun through the hallway. “Actors” who were high school students ran from classrooms and were part of the drill to let teachers know that it wont happen like a drill. There will be children who run, who aren’t quiet and who cannot handle the intense situation. This helped to make the drill more of a reality as they put themselves back into their classroom, thinking about their kids. “It really tugs at the heartstrings to think that this could happen,” said Vogelpohl.
When the Active Shooter Drill was over the teachers were able to ask questions to better help them understand what happened and what they should do if that situation ever occurred. The officers present offered advice and helped them to workout any new plans that they might want to take. It was apparent after the drill that many things could happen if a real intruder come in, but the reinforcement that was provided by the officers helped the teachers to better understand what their jobs were in the situation.