BOONE, Iowa—Boone School District Superintendent Brad Manard has responded quite a few questions since last Monday’s evacuation incident at Boone High School. Manard has listed some of the questions that have been asked, and his responses to them.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)
Following are answers to several questions that have been asked regarding the district lockdown and high school evacuation on Monday, January 28, 2013. The district hopes these answers help clarify questions that may exist.
Why were students only allowed to leave school with parents prior to the release of the lockdown?
The evacuation plan actually states: Designate a location for reunification of students with authorized adults (e.g. parents, legal guardians or others authorized in student’s emergency information). While the elementary schools followed this guidance, there was some confusion at the Middle School and High School. This was because previous trainings have guided administrators only to release students to parents. During an emotionally charged event, releasing students only to parents avoids confusion over where students might be and whom they might have been released to. This is one of the processes we are reviewing, and the release procedures will be clarified in our updated Crisis Plan for … reunification of students with authorized adults (e.g. parents, legal guardians or others authorized in student’s emergency information).
Why was communication (email and/or text) not sent to parents?
At 2:55 p.m. a message was sent through the Iowa School Alert system informing parents and teachers of the situation. Iowa School Alerts is the notification system the district has used for the past three years as a severe weather or emergency notifications system. A vast majority of our parents are signed up for Iowa School Alert. In October, a notification was sent home with K-6 child in Thursday Folders and announcements were placed in the Boone News Republican and on the district webpage recommending that parents register for this service. If you are not signed up for Iowa School Alerts, you can do so on the Boone website by clicking on Iowa School Alerts under the QuickLinks on the homepage. http://boone.k12.ia.us/docs/Weather_Announcement.pdf.
Why was the message not sent out until 2:55?
The first priority was to ensure that all students were safe, all buildings locked down, and the police were on site and in charge of the High School building search. At 2:30, Dr. Manard received a briefing from the Boone Police Department. From this it was determined that, students were safe to be released but buses had not yet been approved to travel in the high school location. Once this briefing was complete the 2:55 email was sent to parents through Iowa School Alerts notifying them of the release and busing procedures.
Why did High School parents not receive an email from the high school as they have in other situations?
The High School parent listserve is in the address book on a secretary’s desktop computer. It is not Internet based. This listserve could not be used because the building had been evacuated and staff were not allowed in the building during the evacuation. Once the building was cleared, an informational email was sent to parents using the listserve at 6:30 p.m.
Isn’t there a better system to use beside Iowa School Alert and the listserve process?
As we have communicated, the district is changing from PowerSchool to the Infinite Campus student information system. Teachers are currently using Infinite Campus for grading purposes and the parent portal has been opened. Letters with parent Activation Keys were mailed to households on Friday, February 1. One feature of the Infinite Campus system is a Messaging System. This auto-dialer messaging service is Internet based and can send email, voicemail, and text to parents. It is similar to Iowa School Alerts with an enhanced telephoning system that leaves a voicemail. It will automatically dial telephone numbers listed by parents in their Infinite Campus demographics. As the district is just implementing the new system, it was not active Monday, January 28, but the Messenger System should be within the next two weeks. (Note: For this system to work effectively, it will be important for parents to review their demographic information and keep this up-to-date.)
I heard about it right away from my High School child. Why didn’t the school notify us right away?
While students began texting immediately, faculty were moving students to the YMCA and organizing the area. The priority responsibility was to secure the students and ensure their safety. Once the district had determined the students and buildings were secure, verified the details of the incident, and communicated with the Boone Police Department, the parents were notified through Iowa School Alert.
Why was there a fire drill when there was a threat from a students that involved a fire drill?
Please understand this situation was a terribly unfortunate coincidence in timing. The High School fire alarm was activated by a heat sensor (we do not believe this was intentionally activated) which resulted in a fire alarm (there was no planned fire drill). About ten minutes into the fire alarm which caused the student evacuation, the High School Principal received an email from a parent indicating a perceived threat by a student that stated the threat would be activated by a fire alarm. (The fire alarm went off well before the email was received.) Reading the email about a threat initiated by a fire alarm, the High School Principal immediately had students directed to the evacuation site at the YMCA and the Boone Police Department was contacted. This was done to ensure student safety.
How can we tell rumor from fact?
The only organizations authorized to release information are the Boone Community Schools and the Boone Police Department. Any rumors, speculation on Facebook, or assumptions by individuals not associated with the school appearing on TV should be considered just that – rumor, speculation, and/or assumptions. The school district’s spokesperson or designee releases the only official information when the information has been verified and approved for release.
How will the district review the crisis procedures to determine any adjustment that need to be made to improve the process?
The district is receiving input from several resources. Teachers have been asked to give recommendations for improvement to their administrators. Many parents have emailed with praise for the good job done by the district, teachers, and staff while also offering suggestions to improve the process. The district School Improvement Advisory Council of parents, staff, students, and community members is meeting next week, and this will be the major topic of discussion. The BCSD Crisis Team of twenty staff members along with representative of the Boone Police Department, Boone Fire Department, and Boone County Sheriff’s Office met on Thursday, January 31 to begin reviewing the incident, ideas expressed, and make recommendations for improvement. Additional meetings will be held to review what was done well, and how the district can improve our procedures. The end result will be an improved process for the district’s overall crisis response.