OAKHURST — Parents, guardians and families of students in the Bass Lake School District are invited to a Parent Safety Meeting on Thursday, Jan. 18, in the Oakhurst Elementary School Multipurpose building. The meeting starts at 6 p.m.
Students in the District will soon receive age-appropriate training in the ALICE program for K-8, as educators continue to align their safety message throughout grade levels and school sites. The meeting is planned so parents and families can begin to understand the concepts behind the program, share in the training experience, and get whatever questions they have answered by professionals ahead of the training roll-out in classes, in weeks to come.
ALICE is an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.
“The purpose of ALICE training is to prepare individuals to handle the threat of an active shooter,” the ALICE Training Institute website explains. “ALICE teaches individuals to participate in their own survival, while leading others to safety. Though no one can guarantee success in this type of situation, this new set of skills will greatly increase the odds of survival should anyone face this form of disaster.”
Students will receive ALICE training at schools including Fresno Flats Community Day School, Oakhurst Elementary, Oak Creek Intermediate and Wasuma Elementary.
“We must expand our safety programs and empower schools, parents, teachers and students with multiple options on how to respond during the invasion of a violent intruder,” says Greg Crane, Founder and President of the ALICE Training Institute.
Crane points out that the US Department of Education now recommends such practices as described in its School Emergency Operation Plan (June 2013):
“As a situation develops, it is possible that students and staff will need to use more than one option… often they will have to rely on their own judgement to decide which option will best protect lives.”
Crane has written the forward for I’m Not Scared, I’m Prepared by Julia Cook, MS, a nationally recognized and award-winning children’s book author, counselor and parenting advocate. The colorful book is a primer on the subject, following the activities of an illustrated ant who loves going to Ant Hill School. He explains how teachers want to keep the school safe and that ALICE is a great plan of action.
After talking about how safety drills are a normal part of school, including drills for fire and bad weather, the little ant explains how they’re learning a new drill the teacher calls the Sheep, the Shepherd and the Wolf. This new drill teaches the ants what to do if there is ever a “dangerous someone” inside the school who isn’t supposed to be there.
In order to help families integrate the ideas with their children, and to simply enable understanding, the District is reaching out to the school community with this training opportunity on Thursday evening.
“We will have deputies from the Madera County Sheriff’s Department on hand to present active threat preparedness training to all those in attendance,” explains District Superintendent Randy Seals.
“Before we begin training our students in the coming weeks, we wanted to make sure parents had a good idea of what active threat training is all about, as well as the safety lessons being taught by our deputies and others in law enforcement.
“Unfortunately, we see on the news almost daily reports of attacks on people carrying out their daily routines of life,” says the Superintendent.
“While our special interest is in preparing our school communities for such emergencies, it is important in today’s times to be prepared anytime we go to the movies, shopping mall, church, concerts, restaurants, or anywhere else in public.”
The ways in which individuals and institutions can prepare for armed attacks has changed dramatically over the last two decades, says Seals.
“Gone are the days of traditional shelter-in-place and all-out lock-downs. What is being taught now through ALICE training will absolutely save lives in these emergency situations.”
Seals explains that what families will learn at the meeting can also be used in any such public crisis situation. Despite the serious nature of the program, the District wants to reassure the school community that the training is a proactive step just like any safety training would be — just like they do at the Ant Hill School.
“Our schools remain very safe,” Seals reassures the community. “We don’t want people overly frightened about the prospects of an active threat situation developing on one of our school sites in our community and none of us want to believe something like this could happen locally. Still, in today’s world, such a threat exists everywhere in life.”
The purpose of ALICE training is to save lives by being prepared to react if and when a threat develops. The training encourages individuals to be aware of their surroundings in any situation, and provides specific ways to respond should an emergency develop. It’s designed to increase knowledge, not create fear.
“We want our community to understand that we take the safety of our community’s children and school personnel extremely seriously,” says Heather Archer, Principal of Wasuma Elementary.
“We can save lives if something does develop by teaching ourselves how to be most prepared to prevent active threats from developing, as well as by knowing how to respond until law enforcement arrives. Lives are saved by being prepared and knowledgeable about how to respond accordingly.”
Throughout the District, as students are trained in ALICE, activities and conversations will be tailored to meet the students as is age appropriate, Archer reaffirms.
Sierra Oakhurst Kiwanis awarded funds to Wasuma and Oakhurst Elementary Schools (OES) to purchase sets of the ALICE books for all classrooms, after Archer and OES Principal Kathleen Murphy applied for Mini-Grants. OCI’s Principal Brad Barcus and Fresno Flats Community Day School’s Shannon Ecklund have been through the training, as well as others. Archer says the staffs are excited to begin.
“We are a team in taking care of our students. In learning about the ALICE program, parents will be provided with an opportunity to have a conversation, or continue one, with their children. This can be one of those conversations that adults dread having with children, but hopefully this program can help with that.”
Archer stresses that the program is artfully designed to inform and empower.
“As a parent, I want to believe that I can keep my kids safe from everything. That attitude creates anxiety and reality says otherwise. All I can do as a parent is teach my kids so that they have the tools and resources to take care of themselves. I really feel like teaching our students these strategies will help to keep them safer wherever they are and long after they leave our district.”