Located within a secure gated community and strict ID card rules, it’s safe to say UNIS is a place well-guarded against many dangers. Now, the school has added a lockdown drill, the first one taking place on April 23rd, 2019.
Lockdowns have always been a common drill to have in schools, but with the shocking amount of school shootings in America, the drills have taken on a new meaning. Especially with the media coverage on them, lockdowns have now become synonymous with something life-threatening.
“There’s a lot of other reasons to have a lockdown, you know, and so that’s why schools need to have [lockdown drills],” Scott Schaffner, the HS principal at UNIS, said, giving the examples of a rabid animal, chemical spill, and a gas leak.
Misty Shipley, Director of Finance and Operations at UNIS, emphasized the same point. “There’s all sorts of situations where you would use [lockdowns], so if you practice it, it takes some of the scary out of it, so people don’t automatically think oh my gosh there’s a shooter on campus,” said Shipley.
So why did it take so long to have this lockdown drill?
A new Grade 10 student at UNIS, Gigi Bishop, remarked how surprised she was at the low amount of lockdowns at the school. “Well I went to a public school, and in America, gun violence is a really big issue, so we would have lockdowns at least twice a month just to make sure everyone is safe,” Bishop said.
The first drill was scheduled to take place during March of 2019, but this was pushed back until April 23 due to the mosque shooting that occurred in New Zealand.
“Considering the sensitivity and that we have a lot of community members who had families impacted by that event, we thought it would be sensitive and make sense to postpone it because it might trigger some horrible memories of what just recently happened,” Schaffner said.
Although teachers had given verbal instructions prior to the first lockdown, some students stated that knowing what to do and actually doing it were two completely different things.
Grade 10 student Kitty Tran was in a health room in the sports center during her first aid exploratory when the drill happened.“They tried to cover the windows, but the ones facing the track have no blinds,” Tran said. “We were instructed to sit against it, but still, people could see your feet.”
As this was the first lockdown drill at UNIS, the people responsible for the drill, like Shipley, are still refining it and making improvements from the feedback they get.
“So for this one, it was a huge communication piece… we just needed to do the first one so that everyone could experience it, and then we can take all the feedback we got from it and figure out how we approve it or making it safer,” Shipley said.
After last year’s lockdown, the school administration made improvements by adding blinds and locks to the classrooms without them, as well as placing lockdown plans around the campus. With the second drill taking place on November 18th, 2019, the school will continue its process of reviewing the outcome of the drill to adjust future actions.
“We solicit teacher feedback after, to see what went well, what didn’t go well, who forgot to lock their doors, and so we kind of continue to try and get better,” said Schaffner.