Walpole High School goes into Lockdown

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Students gather in the dark to avoid being seen or heard during the lockdown drill.

jenniferharrop

Students gather in the dark to avoid being seen or heard during the lockdown drill.

 

A little over a decade ago, schools across the country were considered a predominantly safe environment. The thought of an intruder coming into a school specifically to harm people was unheard of.  Beginning in the late 90’s, various schools, such as Columbine in 1999 and Virginia Tech in 2007, became victims of major school shootings. Now that the idea of a school shooting does not seem impossible, many seem to worry about going through such an experience, and Walpole High School is no exception.  In the past few years especially, Walpole High has been a victim to threats that hint at intruders and school shootings. Though the threats have never been carried out, and no harm has been done to the student body, the threats have left the idea of potential danger within the school in the student’s minds. This school year, on Friday October 28, Walpole High School participated in a crisis management test that could be described as an extremely accurate portrayal of a real school shooting.

Walpole High has participated in lockdown drills in the past, but not on the same level as the crisis management test. In the past, the high school had annual lockdown drills that lasted approximately 15 minutes. The drills consisted of locking the doors to the classrooms and keeping the students quiet until an announcement was made that drill was over. This year, principal Stephen Imbusch decided to go more in depth with the lockdown procedure. “We need to bring the whole community together on this project. It’s all well and good if the students and teachers know how to react, but the community needs to know how to do their part as well,” said Mr. Imbusch. By including the police department, fire department, DPW, and the entire community in the two hour crisis management test, Mr. Imbusch is involving the entire community in the lockdown practice.

On the day of the crisis management test, the Walpole High School faculty and student body was in a frenzy trying to figure out what would happen during the drill. By 9:30am on Friday October 28, the entire school was prepared to be locked in to practice what would need to occur if there was an actual threat to the school. As Mr. Imbusch announced that the school was about to go into lockdown, classrooms around the school locked their doors, shut off their lights, and gathered closely in unseen corners. One class that remained silent during the lockdown was Ms. Lauren Culliton’s AP English class. Senior Kelly McGovern said, “It was eerie how once Mr. Imbusch came over the loudspeaker, we all went into silent crisis mode. It did not matter if the drill was real or not. Pretending it was real really helped us practice how it would go if it were.”

Across the school, students and teachers alike were very impressed with how well the students adapted to the stress put upon them in the crisis management test. Before the lockdown drill, students could be found asking teachers constant “What If…” questions. Principal Imbusch said, “The point is for students to learn how to adapt. When something unexpected occurs, all one can do is adapt. There is no real answer to ‘What if…?’” The crisis management test was put in to action as a guideline to how students could react if a real lockdown occurred, but it was not meant to show the only way students could react. By creating a lockdown scenario in which the students are told to act as they would in a real-life lockdown, both faculty and teachers learn the importance of adapting to life-threatening situations as quickly as possible.

The crisis management test was brought to life approximately an hour and half into the drill, when SWAT team members busted into classrooms in the same manner they would to rescue a classroom in a real crisis. The SWAT team entered the classrooms dressed in camouflage and armed with real guns, which intimidated many students. Senior Jenny Landon said, “As soon as they busted through the doors, I was scared. I knew it was not real, but I was scared. With those guns, they did not have to ask me twice to put my hands up. I would have done anything they asked.” Police officers then led students out of the classroom, and evacuated them outside of the building. If the lockdown were real, students would have been evacuated as far away as possible, but because of the time restriction, students were only led to the football fields, or even just the cafeteria. Also because of time restriction, the history wing was left without being evacuated, which worried some students as to what would happen if they ended up being in the history wing during a real lockdown, and not during a mere drill.

Even with it’s complications, the crisis management test that took place within the walls of Walpole High left students prepared for any future threats to the school. Though many may say an intensive drill such as the lockdown drill that took place on Friday October 28 is unnecessary, the accurate portrayal of a school shooting had its benefits, and further contributed to making Walpole High School a safer environment.