Aug. 23—As the new school year approaches, local teachers aren't just preparing lesson plans and getting their classrooms ready.
They're also talking about what to do if a shooter breaks in while they're with students.
Active shooter and mass casualty training has become the new normal in this age of school violence.
In Pasco, hundreds of teachers gathered Wednesday to make sure they're as prepared as possible.
The training, led by the Pasco Police Department, was designed to get teachers at all the district's schools on the same page.
"It standardizes the response we expect from our teachers. They go in knowing how to respond," said Sgt. William Parramore.
Like Pasco, the Kennewick and Richland school districts also are taking numerous steps in the name of safety, from training to facility upgrades. In Kennewick, for example, first responders do school walk-throughs, safety systems regularly are tested and emergency preparedness is part of teachers' professional development before the school year starts.
Kennewick also has undertaken a slate of building upgrades to improve security.
Pasco earmarked about $900,000 from its 2017 bond to upgrade 15 schools, starting with entryway work at three elementaries this summer.
All the district's schools also are getting "access control systems," which require visitors to be "buzzed in" by a staff member.
This district also has worked closely with Pasco police and other first responders. In March, "(first responders) walked every building throughout the district .... and gave us information about how we can provide security and enhance the security we do have," said Randy Nunamaker, executive director of capital programs. "That information was invaluable to us and we're acting on that."
The active shooter training is part of the response, Nunamaker said.
The district also plans to heighten work on prevention, using the Salem-Keizer threat assessment system to help identify troubled students who need intervention and support. The hope is to launch that prevention work this year, Nunamaker said.
At the active shooter trainer Wednesday, teachers sat rapt as Parramore and Sgt. Brian Vaught began their presentation.
Reporters weren't allowed to sit in on the whole session, to preserve details for safety reasons.
But, "(teachers will) learn how to keep their classrooms secure, they'll learn how to help protect the kids, how they can communicate, how they shouldn't communicate," Nunamaker said.
Administrators and principals already have taken the training.
Nunamaker said parents should know the district is doing all it can for students.
"(Students are) why we do what we do in education," Nunamaker said. "The unfortunate requirement now, because of the events that happened across the nation, is that teachers need to take that one step further in actually helping to protect the students in the classroom.
"We want the parents to know that—that we're going to be prepared if an event happens. We're going to be prepared to respond, to protect their kids and try to provide them the safest environment that we can."