Organizations should be commended for Tuesday response
Tuesday's school lockdown situation was nerve-wracking for all involved, from the parents and students all the way to the teachers, administrators and officers.
Unfortunately, we live in a time where there is justifiable fear – and past precedent elsewhere – of school shootings. Horrific incidents like Sandy Hook are still fresh in our minds, and no parent wants to think of someone wandering the campus of their child's school with a weapon and dark intent.
In the Tuesday case, a student thought she saw another student with a gun. The schools acted appropriately – locking the classrooms, securing the students, and calling the Yuma Police Department, who in turn responded appropriately by systematically searching each classroom and removing the students when it was deemed safe to do so.
However, this is a process that takes time. Rancho Viejo is home to over 400 fourth through sixth grade students, while Salida del Sol has over 600 pre-kindergarten through third grade students. The proximity of the two schools to one another – plus the nearby WACOG Headstart - meant that it was no easy, quick task to secure and search the area.
Fortunately, Crane School District, to which the schools belong, has been proactive in preparing for such an emergency. The district's website, www.craneschools.org, has a portion of its emergency plan posted on the site, and Superintendent Bob Klee noted that the schools followed their practiced procedures.
And Crane's site features a letter from Klee, written in December, informing parents of what to do in case of an emergency.
The biggest complaint heard by Yuma Sun reporters on the scene was that information was slow to get out to the parents. However, the Crane School District, YPD and the City of Yuma should be praised for getting the information out as quickly as they could in a delicate, uncertain situation.
The district utilized an automatic phone system and an email notification system to send messages to parents. The district also set up an information center at H.L. Suverkrup Elementary School nearby, where parents could gather. YPD and the City of Yuma communications team worked together to push out information to the public as soon as it was safe to do so, using Twitter and press conferences. In fact, the city sent out 17 messages via Twitter as the situation unfolded. Local media outlets, including this newspaper, responded immediately, and shared updates on Twitter, Facebook and YumaSun.com as soon as it was made available.
Is there room to improve? Always. A simple step parents can take is by updating contact information with their child's school, so the schools can reach them. And YPD and Crane will likely learn from this situation about what worked and what didn't, and adjust future responses accordingly.
However, the agencies should be commended for keeping the students and staff safe, and doing their best under trying circumstances to get information out to parents.