Hopewell schools increasing safety during lockdown drills

After nearly four weeks of classes - the Hopewell schools division is starting emergency lockdown and evacuation drills. The division says in light of the trag
Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 7:50 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - In the wake of a troubling pattern of life-threatening emergencies inside school buildings across the country, Hopewell City Public School Deputy Superintendent Jay McClain wants parents to know the division is changing with the times.

Starting this week, the division will begin doing emergency lockdown and evacuation drills across its schools. One active lockdown evacuation drill will take place at each school this week. Everything from the safety protocols to the technology used during the drill is being overhauled.

“It’s really important for our students and staff to know what to do when different types of things may happen,” McClain said. “The research and literature lately have been talking about how lockdowns aren’t necessarily the thing you should do it depends. There are times that you should evacuate.”

While the division must conduct at least three active shooter drills during the school year, it will modify the situations to help the staff and students know what to do in a range of problems.

In addition to this, McClain says the school division is also beefing up a number of its safety technologies.

“Really over the last six months, we have additional cameras, additional school security officers, new communication systems and apps that are put in place, new ways of monitoring doors if they are ajar, so we can catch that right away and a number of folks get notified,” McClain said.

He also says Hopewell schools keep the specific nature of those drills close to the vest and say the exercises will be done in a way that doesn’t scare students. He does encourage parents to start those conversations with their students now about what they may experience at school.

“We made our parents recently aware that we were going to be conducting drills this week, and we had parents reaching out to us saying thank you,” McClain said. “We want to build relationships with students; being able to openly have conversations about things people are concerned about or seeing is part of the safety measure itself just as drills are.”

The division says it found that student cell phone use was a contributing factor to safety risk and distraction during the school day. That’s why they now require students to lock their phones up beginning the first day of school in July. The division said that the school would provide a means for students to access their phones in the event of an emergency.

According to state law, 1st graders and below will be exempt from these drills for the next two months to allow themselves to get acclimated to the school buildings. However, at least two more active shooter drills will be required throughout the school year.

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