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County´s school districts claim they´re ready for crisis

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DIANA BUCKLEY
Ellis County Press

ELLIS COUNTY - A 16-year-old DeSoto girl was recently arrested for bringing a gun to school. Friends said she intended to threaten her boyfriend with the gun.

'It hits pretty close to home,' said one Waxahachie parent. 'It makes you wonder, what would our school do?'

Ellis County districts say they are ready for almost any crisis.

Ferris ISD teacher handouts include detailed maps and specific step-by-step courses of action for everything from a tornado to terrorist action.

'We realize no one plan can cover all possible scenarios,' one official states. 'The effectiveness of this plan will rely on training of our staff and students.'

Red Oak ISD worked hand-in-hand with other local agencies, including Red Oak Police Department, Red Oak Fire Department and the Ellis County Sheriff's Department, to develop a citywide emergency response plan.

'A comprehensive emergency crisis plan is concerned with all types of hazardous situations which may develop in the school district,' states the plan's overview. 'It accounts for activities before and after as well as during the operation.'

Red Oak campuses have appointed crisis management teams, and the district has distributed a comprehensive manual to employees. In addition, a mock emergency drill this fall allowed teams to practice procedures.

Waxahachie ISD has also provided handbooks for all teachers. 'The fire chief said they have a cheat sheet,' said WISD spokesperson Candace Ahlfinger. 'I thought if they need one, so do we!'

Red folders containing step-by-step procedures for everything from a plane crash to a drive-by shooting are posted in each district classroom. Individual teachers are expected to add current class rolls to the folders.

'We're still learning,' says Ahlfinger. Some teachers have indicated the red folders contain too much information, such as listing the duties of principals and counselors during a crisis. Ahlfinger says the district plans to streamline the folders for next year.

All districts agree careful planning and thorough staff training are essential ingredients in keeping our students safe during a crisis.

'Consistency of approach and clarity of procedures can reduce confusion, frustration, and anxiety during a critical incident,' states the Red Oak manual. 'Each member of a Crisis Management Team must know the plan and be ready to implement it.'

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