MEEKER I While getting to know the Meeker community during the past several months, many of you have frequently heard me comment that student learning is the number one goal for a school system. Given that student learning will always be goal No. 1, student safety is goal 1A.
With that thought in mind, a necessary step for this year was to ensure the school district develop and approve an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). Procedures were in place at each of the buildings, but nothing had been developed at the district level to ensure consistency between the buildings. It is worth recognizing that we need to be vigilant with proactive measures to prevent emergency incidents. For the time being, however, the primary focus of the EOP shall remain on response practices.
Early in the fall, I was allowed the opportunity to attend extremely useful and practical trainings for writing a school EOP provided by the Colorado Safety School Resource Center. Using that information, and experience I have gained in other school districts, the Meeker School District assembled a safety team to write an EOP for our district. At the April school board meeting, the Meeker School Board approved the district EOP, with the understanding that it will need to be reviewed and updated, at minimum, on an annual basis.
The school district has chosen to utilize the Standard Response Protocol (SRP) developed by the I Love U Guys Foundation. More information on the SRP can be found at www.iloveuguys.org. Within the SRP are standard language and procedures for the following emergency responses most common for schools: lockout, lockdown, evacuate and shelter. While evacuate and shelter responses are relatively self explanatory, it is important to note that during an evacuation, students will remain under supervision of school personnel until they can be properly reunified with a parent or guardian.
Also important for our community is understanding the difference between a lockout and a lockdown. A lockout simply means a potential known threat is present outside of our school buildings. Procedurally, the only step required in this situation is to ensure all exterior doors to the school buildings are locked. Business as normal still occurs within the school building. A lockdown, conversely, indicates a known threat is present inside the school building. This response requires school staff to lock doors, turn out lights and stay out of sight until school administration or first responders unlock the classroom door.
Developing and approving the EOP is merely the first step in ensuring consistent and timely response to emergencies. The school district will continue to engage in regular training and drills for school staff on each of the four operatives found in the SRP. The school district safety team should also be expanded to include Rio Blanco County Emergency Management, Meeker Volunteer Fire and Rescue, Meeker Police Department, Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office and other appropriate agencies. Though work still remains, we have made great strides in the past few months to ensure consistency in providing for the safety of our students. The hard work put forth daily by school staff to ensure our children are safe gives me one more reason to state that I am proud to be a Meeker Cowboy!