If confronted with the terrifying scenario of an active shooter, many schools across the country go into one mode: Lockdown.
Powell school leaders don’t want that to be the case here.
“A lockdown is no longer a viable option” as a sole response, said Jay Curtis, superintendent of Park County School District No. 1. “The research is showing us it’s an ineffective tool when it comes to an active shooter.”
To better prepare Powell schools, principals and other administrators recently took part in ALICE training, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.
It’s training they hope to never have to use.
“We pray to God that it never comes to Powell or anywhere in Wyoming for that matter,” Curtis said of an active shooter.
But it’s training that Powell school leaders and law enforcement believe is necessary, if the worst case scenario becomes a reality.
“It’s a possibility that it could happen in our school district at some point,” said Andy MaGill, safety manager for the Powell school district. He said the ALICE training “provides us with some instruction on what to do in particular situations.”
The world changed when Columbine happened, but the Sandy Hook shooting — where 20 young children and six school staff were killed — created a sense of urgency for schools, Curtis said.
“… you hear the stories where one teacher stood in front of her kindergartners and the only tool she had was to say, ‘Please don’t shoot me and my kids,’” Curtis said. “That’s all she had at her disposal.”
ALICE training provides schools with more options and tools, said Jason Pellegrino, school resource officer with the Powell Police Department.
Staff and students in Powell schools will be taught ALICE training over the course of the school year.
“It will be a training process over the first semester, and an implementation process second semester,” Curtis said.
Training will be age appropriate, so curriculum for kindergartners will be different than what older students and adults learn, Pellegrino said.
A lot of thought and time will go into how it’s implemented in the schools, Curtis said.
“We’re going to have to figure out how it works for Powell,” he said. “It is going to drastically impact the way we view safety and security in the schools.”
While lockdown is a portion of ALICE training, it also teaches evacuating and counter measures, such as distracting or swarming the shooter.
Research shows that the number of casualties from a gunman drop substantially when you add more responses to lockdown, Pellegrino said.
Moving around, counter measures and safely getting out of the building through a door or window are also options. If a shooter is on the other side of the building, it doesn’t make sense to lock yourself in a classroom when there’s an exit close by, Pellegrino said.
The ALICE training instructor said over and over that “the single most effective tool is not being where the shooter is,” Curtis said.
“It’s kind of common sense,” added Pellegrino.
All of the school administrators underwent training to become instructors in ALICE training, so each building has a go-to person.
“We’re all working together to make sure we’re the safest district we can possibly be,” MaGill said.
He said he’s glad to see the support of the administration — including former superintendent Kevin Mitchell, Curtis and every principal and vice principal.
Pellegrino agreed, saying “all of the principals are very proactive when it comes to protecting kids.”
MaGill said everyone is on the same page and shares a common goal for where the safety of the district is headed.
Incidents have been prevented by ALICE training in schools where it was implemented, Pellegrino said.
“If God forbid something like this takes place, then we’ve got options and everyone on board or at least having thought about it,” MaGill said. “It’s doing more than just freezing in a certain situation.”
In addition to the training, Powell schools also received various security upgrades over the summer.