While mourning the loss of life in a shooting Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Marion High School Principal Tod Gordon’s mind went to a crisis drill MHS had earlier this fall.
On Nov. 2, MHS ran an armed-intruder drill with the help of Marion Police Department and Marion County Sheriff’s Office. The drill was planned during a staff development day Oct. 15 when the school thoroughly reviewed its crisis management plan, Gordon said.
A few minutes before the drill began, the school district sent an Alert Now message to tell parents about the drill.
About 3 p.m. that Friday afternoon, an announcement on the intercom told teachers to lock themselves and their classes in their rooms. Soon after, the alert level increased with an announcement for staff and students to take cover away from doors and windows.
To make the drill even more realistic, the “intruder” was given a track starter’s pistol to simulate gunfire. Gordon checked how the drill was going and was in a corridor when the starter’s pistol was fired.
“I about jumped out of my shoes,” he said.
The smell of gunpowder was thick in the halls after just a few shots, Gordon said.
Kelli Hess, Megan Richmond, and Amanda Stuchlik were in class with math teacher Gary Stuchlik when the drill began.
“We weren’t really scared when they started it, until the gunshots,” Hess said Monday.
After they heard shots, they huddled together behind a lab station, hidden from the view from the door, Richmond said.
“I wanted to call my dad,” she said.
Stuchlik said they had an idea that it might be a drill, because their teacher wouldn’t answer their questions about whether it was a drill. Even with the idea that it was a drill, they were still scared, she said.
Hess said she feels much better prepared for a real crisis after the drill, because she learned a lot that she didn’t know before it.
“We weren’t really sure where to go,” she said.
After the all-clear was given on the intruder drill, the school had a fire drill. In keeping with the theme of making it more than a routine drill, classes had to take alternate evacuation routes. For some classes in the Hill Building, that meant using the metal stairs outside the building, which was a harrowing experience for some of the students, Gordon said.
Following the fire drill, students went to the school’s student evacuation site to nearby Marion Christian Church. At the church, administrators reviewed the drills with students, talking to them about the importance of taking cover, not panicking, and the need to stay together until the all-clear is received and everyone is accounted for.
Gordon was pleased with the results of the drill.
“I thought it was really good,” he said. “It was long overdue. It was time to do it.
“Some of the kids were like, ‘Was that real? Was that real?’” Gordon said.