Paly will be instating code red lockdown drills in order to prepare for armed intruders and other potential dangerous situations on campus. The administration has planned to execute these emergency drills for a while; however the recent tragic shooting in Newport, Connecticut facilitated the implementation.
“It was always in the plan, I think [the Newton shooting] just expedited the process,” vice principal Jerry Berkson said.
There will be one drill this school year that will last 30 to 40 minutes on either a Monday or a Tuesday.
Students and staff will practice using standard code red procedures to simulate a dangerous person intruding on campus.
“It will be a practice of barricading the doorways, turning of the lights and then the police department will come and evaluate the school,” Berkson said.
Paly administration is currently making additional changes in order to ensure that campus is as safe as possible.
“There are a few adjustments we have to make here, a few weaknesses that are being fixed that I wouldn’t mention here publicly,” Berkson said.
Paly staff recently attended an hour seminar with the Palo Alto Police Department in order to ensure that they are prepared for any catastrophe that may occur at school.
Sophomore Promise Lee recalled that at her old school in Hong Kong was guarded with metal gates, and school officials would guard the gates and check with each visitor before any visitor can enter the school.
“Our school was very safe because no strangers were really allowed in,” Lee said.
However, Palo Alto superintendent Kevin Skelly believed that bringing armed guards onto the campus is not very feasible in Palo Alto. Even locking doors or turning off classroom lights would not be able to prevent a gunman from breaking down and entering classrooms. Other schools around the Bay Area believe lockdowns and better training of kids to hide from people would preserve the safety of students and staff.
Although such incidents are rare, Skelly wants to ensure a safe learning environment and community for Palo Alto families and students.
“In a free and open society, we want to have schools that are open places that invite community,” Skelly said to East County Times.
In order to ensure a safe community for students and families alike, Skelly will revisit the district’s current security system.
“We have signals that we use over the PA system,” Skelly explains to KQED, “that alert staff to what’s going on and they have protocols that they do in the classroom to create as safe an environment as you possibly could.”
Skelly is looking into the Sandy Hook incident to see if there is anything that he can learn from the shooting that would help increase security for Palo Alto students.
Palo Alto implements code red drills at middle schools, but the School Board will also implement the drills in high schools and elementary schools to prepare students for any potential incidents that can occur at any time and place.
Junior Alex Touloukian recalls a code red drill at Jordan Middle School, when the principal would set aside certain days for code red drills to prepare students in any situation. Students and teachers would be in their classrooms, and an announcement would initiate the drill. Students and teachers were given half an hour to work together to cover windows, block doors and windows with desks and chairs and prepare fire extinguishers and flashlights just as if it were a real incident. Teachers and policemen would then proceed through the halls, as if they were the gunmen themselves, and would check each classroom to make sure that the room was locked, blocked, and silent. These drills would occur two to three times a year to ensure that students did not forget how to work quickly and efficiently in case a real catastrophe occurs.
“At Jordan, we would always have these code red drills to prepare students for any given situation,” Touloukian said, “I think these drills were really effective in preparing students, and all schools throughout the country should start code red drills in their schools to prepare for any incident like the one at Taft High School and Sandy Hooks Elementary School.”
Junior Megan Leung agrees.
“We would practice the code red drills two to three times a year, so that in a real case, such as the one at Sandy Hook, the students would be able to act quickly and instinctively to protect themselves in the classrooms.”
Moreover, Leung believes that elementary, middle, and high schools in Palo Alto should all take a day or two dedicated to educating students and staff on how to prepare for any given catastrophe.
Although these types of incidents may not be preventable or predictable, students believe that by educating students at schools to prepare for any given catastrophes.
By educating students at elementary schools, they would be able to prepare to protect themselves and know when to call for help. Moreover, schools always have students who transfer in, and transfer students may not know how to react when such incidents occur. Thus, the Palo Alto school board should consider implementing code red drill days in all schools to help students better prepare and act more efficiently in these incidents.
“I think with the new gun laws enforced in California, better preparations, like code red drills, and giving seminars to prepare staff, students and staff will be able to defend themselves and others in any dangerous situation.”Junior Victoria Kyone said. “Giving guns to teachers is just stupid and would not help solve or prevent anything.”
California needs to implement code red drills in all schools in order to minimize gun violence and prepare students and staff for any future catastrophes.