Run for your lives, ALICE tells schools

2013-07-30T20:30:00Z 2013-07-31T11:10:05Z Run for your lives, ALICE tells schoolsJim Rudisill 319-523-2213 Muscatine Journal

COLUMBUS JUNCTION, Iowa — An armed intruder who would someday invade a school or building in the Columbus School District may find a different reaction than expected, after school board members offered their support for a new training program.

In a tag-team presentation that included school administrators, local police and other district residents, board members learned Monday the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) Program would provide options to staff and student besides just hiding from the invaders.

“Our current procedure is to lockdown, but is that always our best option?” Dean of Students Emily Wilson asked the board.

Wilson and several others who spoke about the program recently attended ALICE training and came away convinced it would help save lives. Wilson provided figures that showed most of the victims during the 1999 Columbine and 2007 Virginia Tech shootings had been passive during the invasions, choosing to hide or remain in locked rooms. There were considerably fewer killed or wounded among the groups who chose to run, barricaded themselves in rooms or took other actions.

Superintendent Marlene Johnson, who also attended the recent training, said the program would provide students and staff with the option to be proactive in their defenses. She said the training had taught her to act and not be docile.

“One strategy cannot address all the variables, (but the) best advice is to get out if you can,” she said.

Johnson said the program did not train students to attack, but to use common sense in deciding which action to use. She said the current school policy does not specify any procedure for dealing with intruders, so the ALICE program could be offered without any change in the policy.

However, she did not want to begin implementing any additional training program without asking for some input from the board.

“I think it’s a no-brainer. Everything makes sense,” board member Sandy Martin said.

Joy Lekwa agreed.

“You’re going to do what’s good for the kids,” she said.

Johnson did not indicate when any actual training would be provided to the staff, which would then discuss potential situations and options for reacting to them with students.

Staff cuts

The board approved several personnel changes, including several terminations caused by a grant modification. According to officials, salaries can no longer be funded through a K-3 grant the school had been awarded a few years ago.

Without the grant funding, Johnson said the school district would need to use its general fund to cover the costs of six para-educator positions and a portion of a family contact position.

The board agreed not to offer contracts to Socci Fox, Terri MacEachern, Stephanie Briones, Janie Holmes, Beth Allen or Linda Milder because of the grant change.

The board also agreed it could not cover $11,291 of Georgina Buendia-Cruz’s salary because of the grant cut. However, she could remain on the staff with a reduced salary.

The board also ...

  • Agreed to seek an extension of the voter-approved Physical Plant and Equipment Levy next year.
  • Learned the new administrative building and wrestling facility remain on budget and schedule.
  • Approved several academic goals developed by the School Improvement Advisory Committee.
  • Approved resolutions designating Johnson as the person authorized to act on the district’s behalf in matters involving trusts established by the late Beryl and Sime Roundy.

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