Procedures in place to limit access, danger at local schools
By Jennifer Eisenbart
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut, Burlington Area School District officials have dealt with a number of questions – chief among them is how would the district deal with a similar threat.
On Monday night, BASD Buildings and Grounds Supervisor Gary Olsen laid out just how the district is monitoring its grounds and protecting its students.
Since 1995, the district has had a crisis communication emergency response plan – a binder with policies to deal with everything from bomb threats to severe weather to an active shooter in a school.
“All those things are outlined,” said Olsen. “It’s a procedure and a checklist for us to follow.”
That manual is now required in Wisconsin Act 309, but the district had its in place well ahead of that – and faced its own student threat back in 1999.
Those procedures are reviewed with staff on a yearly basis because, as Olsen explained, if a crisis occurs, administration won’t exactly be able to go to the manual, open it to a specific section and look up what to do.
To that end, the district has also engaged in a number of other activities. Last year, the district participated in a tabletop active shooter drill at Gateway’s HERO Center in Burlington, and active shooter training drills have been done at the high school – during evening hours when students aren’t around.
And in addition to having the manual, the district routinely runs drills – nine fire drills, tornado drills in April and September and two other state-mandated evacuation type drills.
Olsen also walked through a number of different upgrades, which include everything from hand-held radios dispersed throughout the district with the ability to tune automatically on an emergency channel, to all classrooms now having telephones.
There are 130 of the radios district-wide, which are monitored by the police departments, fire departments and also Thomas Bus Company. If the emergency button is pushed, “you have everyone’s attention who has a radio,” Olsen said.
Another benefit Burlington’s schools have is that they all operate as closed campuses – i.e., students can’t leave the campus for lunch or any other reason during the school day.
With all entrance points locked and monitored, Olsen said the schools are more protected than ever.
However, for all of the monitors, cameras, fire detectors, and radios, Olsen did get asked how the district would stop a determined shooter like in the Sandy Hook situation.
The simple answer is, of course, that the district can’t stop everything.
“If someone’s committed … they’re going to be successful to some extent,” Olsen said. “All this is designed to limit that success.”