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Solon Springs Schools aim to improve active shooter training

Lockdown will no longer be the only option in Solon Springs School District as it has five staff certified active shooter trainers including Frank Helquist, Superintendent; Brian Amy, physical education teacher and dean of students; Jody Peterson second grade teacher; Becky Semborski, art teacher; and Mark Dahlberg, maintenance director. (Submitted photo)

Solon Springs School District recently hosted a full-day in-service devoted to increasing the safety of students when emergencies might exist at the school. For many years, schools have practiced fire and emergency drills; there is now an increasing trend for school to become trained in how to handle an active shooter.

Solon Springs Schools now have five staff who are certified trainers, and they put their skills to work at this in-service that included most employees along with representatives from the Douglas County Sheriff's Department, Solon Springs Fire Department and Northwestern School District.

The Solon Springs trainers include teachers, Brian Amys, Becky Semborski and Jody Peterson. Maintenance Director Mark Dahlberg and Superintendent Frank Helquist are also part of the team.

Solon Springs is in the process of adopting and implementing specific strategies that have been developed by the ALICE Training Institute. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. These will be implemented over time with students next school year.

According to Helquist, there have been way too many school or public place shootings where the majority of people who are shot have simply tried to hide — sometimes under tables or behind desks, using traditional lockdown procedures. This is especially true of some of the worst school shootings including Columbine and Sandy Hook.

Over the past 15 years the ALICE Training Institute has presented to over 1 million people, including over 3,700 school districts nationwide, teaching them a number of options that can be used if a threatening situation occurs in a school.

"The ALICE training is the best I have received in my entire teaching career," said Semborski.

Brian Amy and Jody Peterson also spoke at the Solon in-service telling staff that the strategies used in ALICE, just make common sense, that there should be options other than just sitting on the floor waiting for something bad to happen.

As part of the Solon in-service staff were shown the research base for using different strategies. In fact, numerous state and federal agencies are calling on schools to use more than just a lockdown strategy.

Staff were also involved in six different active shooter scenarios during which they experienced what it might be like to be a student in a shooting situation. They quickly learned that knowing what options exits increases the level of safety for students.

Solon Springs is just in the beginning stages of implementing ALICE strategies. A parent informal meeting is being held to provide an overview. In the fall, more training to staff will be provided so that students can begin to become trained and drills can be conducted, just as already exist for fires and tornadoes.

According to Helquist training of staff is very important prior to implementing with students. The ALICE Training Institute recommends using age appropriate training for students. In fact, there are two books that introduce safety concepts to young students.

"The strategies ALICE teaches are just plain common sense, but not necessarily common knowledge," Dahlberg said.

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