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Lockdown drills returning to schools after pandemic pause

Christopher J. Rogers, administrator of student interventions and safety for the Westfield Public Schools. (THE WESTFIELD NEWS FILE PHOTO)

WESTFIELD — Westfield Public Schools and the Westfield Police Department will conduct enhanced lockdown drills the week of Nov. 15-19 in all of the schools, according to Christopher J. Rogers, administrator of student interventions and safety for the district.

A team of Westfield administrators and other staff members representing every level from elementary to high school has been working collaboratively with the Westfield Police and Fire departments to make sure students, staff and families have a current, research-based, and educationally sound safety plan, according to an announcement this week.

The drills will be utilizing the enhanced lockdown procedures known as ALICE — Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. Rogers said the schools have been doing ALICE-based lockdown drills since 2014, but this will be the first lockdown drill in two years due to COVID-19.

“Our goal is to get back to where we were pre-COVID,” Rogers said.

All of the schools will participate with the exception of Fort Meadow Early Childhood Center, where the three- and four-year-olds will listen to a presentation.

“Everything is done in a very developmentally appropriate manner, based on the age and grade level of the students involved,” Rogers said, adding that the way students are trained at the elementary grades is a little bit different than the way they train students in the upper grades, in the middle and high school levels.

Rogers said the district has also always done lockdowns with the Westfield Police ever since the drills became a standard piece in terms of safety training.

“The police are our partners in this. We don’t do lockdown drills at all without the Westfield Police Department being involved. They are outstanding partners with us,” he said, adding that as the chief safety officer, he is also present at every lockdown drill that is conducted along with the administration and the crisis management team.

Rogers said there are several levels of crisis management in the district, including a district-wide safety team which he chairs and which includes members of police, fire and the Health Department, along with principals, assistant principals and a couple of nurses. He said the four departments work together closely when it comes to safety.

Each school also has its own crisis management and safety response team that takes the district-wide safety plan and implements it in their school.

“A lot of the work done at the district level is pushed to the site level. My job is to make sure the district-wide safety plan is being followed and updated as needed throughout our district and our 12 schools,” Rogers said.

Asked how parents feel about the drills, Rogers said families are told before the lockdown drills take place.

“Each individual school will know. We do get phone calls and questions; people who get anxious and nervous, which is normal and logical,” Rogers said. “We’re very transparent about what we do,” he added.

Anyone with questions regarding the drills may contact Christopher Rogers, administrator of student interventions and safety for the Westfield Public Schools, at 413-572-6397.

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