By Nikki Jamieson
Horizon School Division has changed the number of lockdown drills schools are required to perform every year.
During their regular Jan. 17 meeting, the Horizon School Board reviewed their lockdown policy for the division. Policy EBCE, or the School Security (Lockdown) policy, was first adopted in 2002, with amendments in 2003, 2008 and 2013, and abides by sect. 45(8) of the School Act. It features one revision, under lockdown procedures, lockdown practice sect. 1, where instead of three lockdown practices a year, schools are now required to perform at least two, one per semester. The revised section reads, as follows:
“Schools must practice lockdown drills at least twice per year (once per semester). One will be an External Threat Lockdown and one an Internal Threat Lockdown. Principals should conduct lockdown practices during class times as well as at recess or lunch. Lockdown practices are recorded on the Public School Works System, noting the date and time of the lockdown, the circumstances, and the time taken to secure the school facility.”
Horizon School Division superintendent Wilco Tymensen noted that when the policy committee had looked at other school jurisdictions around the province, most only had two lockdown practices a year, so they changed the policy to reflect that. Other then that, the policy remains the same.
“All we’ve changed in our policy is this one little comment, that says a minimum of two per year. So basically, a minimum of one per semester, which would be in line with every other school division, the majority of school divisions in the province,” said Tymensen. “If they want to do three or four or five, they have that ability, but we’re saying you have to have at least two, instead of at least three.”
Board member Blair Lowery expressed concern about what happens if a phys ed. class is outside or if students are off campus when a lockdown — mock or not — occurs.
“If you’re off campus, it might not be as big an issue, but if you’re outside, the class is outside, and you do get some (incident),” said Lowery. “Phys ed. class tends to be outside, I’d say four months of the year. School goes into a lockdown, to me there has to be some type of procedure, Just even just some kind of communication, so that that teacher and that class that are outside know and don’t come back in or whatever needs to happen.”
Although the division has had the school resource officer and other police officers come into the school and help explain lockdown practice and procedures, it can be hard to craft a set of rules to follow for every single event.
Tymensen used the example of an angry parent in the front office, refusing to leave and doing something to cause the school to go into lockdown. In that scenario, they may or may not be able to lock the front door, depending on where the parent is. Depending on where that school is, it may cause other schools in the vicinity — such as the case with Central, D.A, Ferguson and W.R. Myers schools — to go into lockdown as well. Although in some cases, phys ed. teachers carry cell phones or a walkie-talkie so the school can get ahold of that teacher, other schools might not do that.
Additionally, the school might hear rumours of a police bust happening nearby, or get a request from police that they keep kids inside for a bit.
“It becomes very difficult to look at every single scenario,” said Tymensen. “Schools have conversations as to what that looks like and how do you debrief and phys ed. classes outside is just one more complexity to that factor, that we try to take a look at and see how do you deal with that.”
“Everyone seems to be a little different. It’s really hard to say this is the exact process, step by step by step, how we do it.”
Although the division cannot come up with a single, clear set of rules regarding what to do in a lockdown because of the many different aspects involved, the police does try to differentiate what to do whether the intruder is inside or outside the school.
The board passed first reading on the policy.