Lockdown prompts notice research

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A lockdown situation at London City Schools has prompted research into an automatic call system to notify parents of emergency situations.

On April 11, students informed administrators that a London Middle School student had brought a gun to school. School officials called the London Police Department. The police found that the gun was not loaded and the student had not brought ammunition.

Based on the student’s reputation, the police checked the student’s known “associates” at the middle school and high school, said Superintendent Steve Allen. As a result, the district locked down all three school buildings—London Elementary, London Middle School and London High School.

The police detained the student with the gun and one other middle school student. The student with the gun has been incarcerated.

Initially, school officials were not sure how long the lockdown would last, Allen said. For that reason, teachers and staff members at London Elementary School called students’ parents to notify them of the emergency and a possible delay in their children’s return home.

The lockdown ended at about the same time high school students are normally dismissed for the day, so those parents were not notified. In the end, the elementary students got home just slightly later than usual, Allen said.

“It went fairly smoothly. I just hope that we don’t have to go through that again,” Allen added about the lockdown in general.

The situation prompted the superintendent to begin research into implementing a system that would automatically notify parents of emergencies at the school. Currently, the district relies on teachers and staff members to call parents individually for students in their respective classrooms.

“The systems I’ve been looking at can make 5,000 to 10,000 calls or e-mails in five minutes,” Allen reported at the April 21 school board meeting.

The upside to such a system is efficiency and expediency. The downside, Allen said, is the cost. Most are approximately $10,000 per year and many require the district to not only collect all the phone numbers and e-mail addresses, but also input them.

Allen said the district is lean on staff and doesn’t have someone readily available to input information for 2,100 students.

“I do have a call into another company… I hope they come through,” said the superintendent, who ideally wants to find a company that will provide the automatic notification service and do the data entry.

As for the cost, Allen said, “I think we’re just going to have to come up with it somehow. This is an important system to have.”

He acknowledged that the decision to implement such a system is a difficult one to make.

“We could pay upwards of $10,000 and maybe never use it. We could use it as often as possible for weather-related school closures, but the more you use it for that purpose, the less effective it could become as an emergency tool,” Allen said.

“When you have a tight budget, it’s a tough, tough decision to make.”

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