Like other schools in the area, Providence Creek Academy in Clayton is looking for ways to improve their emergency planning procedures to make sure the plans keep students and staff safe during the school day.

Principal Audrey Erschen said every year, administrators and staff go over the emergency procedure guide prior to the start of the school year. In light of the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, Erschen said the school is looking into trainings to make them better prepared.

The academy is meeting with state's Department of Safety and Homeland Security to make sure everything is in place with the school's emergency plans. One of the schools board members – Christian Craig – attended an active shooter training done by the state earlier in January and Erschen said he'll share the information from the training with administrators.

As for the academy's emergency procedure book, Erschen said it covers everything from fire to lockdown to fights.

Preparing the students

When putting together the emergency plans, Erschen said staff took every situation into consideration. Providence Creek Academy has three buildings, plus a recess area. Therefore, if students are outside during an emergency there are two locations students are supposed to go based on their distance from the school.

"We do fire drills every month and a lockdown twice a year," Erschen said.

When the first lockdown drill is done, parents and students are notified as to not worry them. However, the second procedure is done as a surprise so students know what it's really like when the school is under an unexpected lockdown. The school recently did their first lockdown drill.

"We were supposed to do it before Christmas, but with everything that happened at Sandy Hook, we felt it would be better to wait until after the holiday," Erschen said.

Everyday safety procedures

Erschen said all doors are locked so unless a person has a badge, they can't gain entrance to the buildings unless they are buzzed in by staff.

Moreover, Erschen said students don't walk from building to building alone.

"Our young students walk with adults," she said. "Our upper students walk with their 'buddies.'"

All visitors have to sign in; staff may ask for identification if they don't recognize someone. If someone comes to pick up a child but isn't listed under the student's emergency contact information, the school calls the parents.

Amped up security

Two things are helping to keep the school safe: a security system and a school resource officer. Erschen said there are monitors in the front office as well as on her computer that enable staff to keep an eye on what's going on around the school during the day. The cameras keep track of when the doors open even after hours. Plus, all exterior doors with the exception of the main entrance set off an alarm if the door is opened.

Providence Creek Academy started using a school resource officer this year after a few years absence. The school shares the SRO with Clayton Elementary and Clayton Intermediate schools.

"It seems to have a positive impact on the students and parents are pleased," Erschen said.

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