Emergency planning is essential to our schools

Readers may be understandably troubled by the bomb threat that prompted the evacuation of all Barbour County schools Friday afternoon. However, they can also feel good about the fact that an emergency plan was in place – and that the plan was followed by staff and students, according to Assistant Superintendent of Schools Jeff Kittle.

The students were evacuated quickly and the schools were swept for bombs by law enforcement officials.

“I’m disappointed that somebody would do something of this nature, especially in light of recent events nationally,” Kittle said. “But I’m awful proud of all of our personnel for doing a tremendous job of keeping our kids safe.”

Emergency plans in Randolph County schools were put to the test multiple times last year. Several shootings and a stabbing took place near school grounds, and in each instance the schools were placed on lockdown.

“We’ve been fortunate in that all the schools have taken the crisis management plan seriously,” former Randolph Superintendent Dr. Jim Phares said in October. “It’s a shame that we have to plan for events such as these, but this is the world we live in today.”

The schools collaborate on their crisis management plans with the state Department of Education and the state School Building Authority.

Such planning seems more important now than ever, in the wake of the tragic Connecticut school shootings in December. During this week’s Randolph County Commission meeting, a resident asked Sheriff Mark Brady if his department would train school staff to deal with such a nightmarish situation.

It remains to be seen whether that kind of training is the best solution for our community, but it’s good that we are all thinking more about school safety. We’re grateful that local school officials have put emergency plans in place, and that staff have done such a good job implementing them.