Caught In a Lockdown

By Renée Daniels, Leatherstocking Region Director

[Spring 2018 NYPT]

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of volunteering at an elementary school Book Fair. A couple of hours into the day I hear the principal announce over the P.A., “This is a drill. Lockdown. Lockdown. Lockdown.”

Thankfully, I was between class visits so I was alone. A little uncertain about what to do, I poked my head into the hall and noted teachers were closing their doors and turning off lights. I did the same thing – then I grabbed a book and sat down to wait out the drill.

After a few minutes a school employee came by, stopped in and asked me to come down to the office after the drill was over. I had lots of questions going through my mind and was more than glad!

I thought about what I’d do if this was the real deal. What if there was an active shooter?

I’m not a school employee, so I didn’t have a key to lock the door.

What if I had students with me? It’s not uncommon for teachers to send students to the Book Fair by themselves. Where would we all hide? Where was the emergency exit window. How does it open?

What do I do for other types of drills? How would I know it’s safe to come out of hiding?

Should we ask the principal for some training for our volunteers? What do other schools do? Do they include volunteers in drills?

What should we do as a PTA unit? What about other PTAs across New York? What do they do? Has training volunteers occurred to them? How many PTAs have plans of their own?

My mind was like a hamster in a wheel. So many thoughts and questions swirling around.

In light of recent events, safety meetings are taking place throughout the nation. It’s a sad thing that we have evolved from fire evacuation drills and shelter in place drills to lockdown drills.

To quote NYS PTA Executive Director Kyle Belokopitsky, “Our mission has never been more clear.” The children are always in our thoughts with every action we take. So it makes sense to have plans of our own. Not only for the children, but for the volunteers that serve them.

PTA has evolved too. We are more than bake sales and fun nights. We provide students with great educational programs, assemblies, and scholarships! We advocate locally, statewide and nationally for their education, health and well-being.

We are now also proactively assisting our schools with identifying safety concerns, we are helping to develop better procedures, and we are helping by communicating to parents what’s going on in our schools. So many great examples of the good we all do together.

If your PTA would like to develop a plan or provide training to volunteers, reach out to your principals and superintendents and ask to be a part of these discussions.

Develop safety plans with your school for before, during and after school events and activities. Ask for training for your volunteers about safety procedures. If only just for one reason, so we can continue to do good things for kids.