As the school year of 2018-19 rolls around at McPherson High School, many mundane things have changed since the prior school year, such as student count, teachers, class times, and advisory periods. Though, several other things have changed as well, to increase school safety statewide.
Kansas School Officials have made a rule that requires schools to run nine crisis drills throughout the school year, three fire drills, three tornado drills, and three invasion drills. The schedule for these drills is also spontaneous, and teachers are only alerted of an oncoming drill five minutes before it is to take place. Some things also haven’t changed, like locking mechanisms that are only accessible from the outside of classroom doors. Not even four months in, and the upcoming school year at McPherson High School is turning out to be a very exciting one.
The increase in tornado Drills and Fire Drills is an understandable change. No one knows when or if a fire may break out, or when a tornado is bound to hit, although it’s easier to tell the path of a forming Tornado before conditions get dangerous today, than it was 50 years ago. Despite the adaptation of technology, a 5-minute alert for teachers, and students can cause panic. Some students are able to process the sounds of the fire alarm quicker than others, and understand that it isn’t necessarily dangerous, but others don’t register sounds and flashing lights quite as quickly. They may panic, or fear for their safety, and they may accidentally put themselves, and others, in danger in the process. While the change in safety procedure makes sense, it’s also risky for everyone involved. In a real event, panic would be expected, but that is the point of annual drills. So that if a dangerous event should occur, students wouldn’t panic. The reason for this 5 minute alarm is beneficial to the safety of everyone. It was set forth to prevent anyone from causing harm to a student or staff member during the drills.
While lots of changes have been made, there are still things that you would expect to change. When walking through the school, a student or visitor may notice that some classrooms have a locking mechanism on the outside of classroom doors, but not on the inside. This means that, during the chance of a lock down or invasion, a teacher would need to lock the door from the outside, then close the door. It also means that if an invader was determined and skilled enough, they could pick the lock to the door and gain access to the classroom, leaving student to defend themselves with the objects in the room. Many students are in fact, capable, and willing, to defend themselves, while others, perhaps a student with a disability or an injury, cannot protect themselves as easily. Many classrooms still have the same feature, which could potentially leave many students in danger if an intruder really wanted into the classroom.
Another change, relating to the possible intruder threat, as well as the risk of a school fire, is that all windows looking into classrooms must be covered. But, according to fire safety regulations, the windows and viewing points cannot be permanently covered. This combination of rules means that all windows must have a set of blinds installed, to prevent visibility during an intruder situation, and allow it during possible fires, and normal class periods. Now, this change is understandable for multiple reasons. One reason, is that most easily accessible items that a teacher may use to cover the window is likely flammable, like paper, for example. Another, is so that during a fire, firemen may check classrooms for stranded students and ignited objects.
One disadvantage of having windows open to classrooms at all, is that if an intruder wished, they could simply break the glass. Doors with windows could be easily opened. An intruder could shatter the glass with a gun or blunt object, reach their arm through the opening, and open the door. Classrooms with windows built into the walls are another issue. Intruders could break the glass and crawl through the window into the room with ease.
Although the changes throughout the school do seem a little unorthodox, it is important for High School, Middle School, and Elementary School staff to keep students safe. It’s vital that drills take place, so students know what to do in case of a real crisis. It’s important for everyone to know how to act during specific situations.