In light of the recent tragic events, Ponca City Superintendent Shelley Arrott reviewed safety protocols with board of education members Monday night during the monthly board meeting.
“First and foremost, with the recent mass school shooting in Uvalde and the recent in-state shootings in Taft and Tulsa, security is on the forefront of everyone’s mind. These shootings are horrific, senseless, and unthinkable. Even though PCPS has many security measures in place, we must work as a team to lock down and protect our buildings with diligence,” she said.
“Our tight knit community is so fortunate to have such excellent relationships with first responders, The Ponca City Police Department, the Kay County Sheriff’s Department, and The Ponca City Fire Department/EMT. We have been in collaborative discussions this summer on how we can further enhance the protection of our students and staff. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, our responders are here and ready to protect our schools and are prepared to do whatever it takes to neutralize a threat.”
Arrott discussed several PCPS safety protocols already in place and provided an update of additional safety protocols that will be implemented by PCPS and how our first responders will respond to a threat and what they will do to enhance security for our schools.
Arrott discussed several PCPS safety protocols are already in place including:
• Secure Entrances: Each site has locked entrances with enhanced features to create secure entrances. Thanks to our voters overwhelmingly passing bond issues, PCPS has made it a priority to make sure all sites have a secure entrance. In our 2022 bond package there were further upgrades to our secure entrances. There are plans to further enhance the entrances at West and Wildcat Academy that will bring them to the standard our community has expected.
• Lobby Guards: All sites have Lobby Guards. Lobby Guards are visitor management kiosks for check-in security indicating visitors are approved for entrance. Wildcat Academy has a “buzz in” system but will have a Lobby Guard with the secure entrance installation.
• The Fine Arts secure corridor was part of the 2016 Bond Package that allows safe travel by students from the Howell building to the Fine Arts Building.
• We contract with the City of Ponca City for (2) School Resource Officers. One officer is housed at PO-HI, and the other officer splits time between East and West Middle Schools. Both officers respond to any elementary need we may have.
• Security Guards: During the last school year, PCPS contracted with a security company to have (3) unarmed CLEET certified security guards at PO-HI.
• ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) Training is provided for staff and students and is utilized during Lock Down Drills regularly.
• Badging is required for all staff and students at secondary schools.
• All doors are locked except for the secure entrances.
• PCPS contracts with PCPD officers to secure police presence at large public events.
Additional protocols that will be monitored with diligence beginning with the upcoming school year include:
• Wildcat Safety Monitors: PCPS will hire additional Unarmed CLEET Certified Wildcat Safety Monitors to monitor doors, high traffic areas, the parking lot, and properties.
• Po-Hi Parking Lot Safety Updates – These updates include new striping and numbering of parking spots in the student parking lot, options to indicate if a student is leaving the site for concurrent classes, an internship, or other reasons for leaving the lot, and will ensure there is an attendant in the guard shack during school hours.
• Additional cameras will be installed inside the building at Po-Hi that will provide surveillance of all entrances and hallways. Po-HI is a multilevel building and spans tens of thousands of square feet. Such an expansive space requires a great deal of monitoring.
• HALO chemical and noise detectors will be installed in all bathrooms in each of our secondary sites. Principals will be alerted via text of any disturbance in a specific restroom and can respond immediately.
• Scheduled monitoring of all outside doors at every site to ensure they are locked.
• Routine monitoring of equipment such as secure entrances, Lobby Guards, or faulty doors to ensure all are maintained appropriately.
• There will be no entrance for school events other than through the secure entrance. We realize this could be an inconvenience for families in some cases, but the safety of our students and staff is worth any inconvenience this could bring and is the top priority.
• Sign-in tables will be utilized at school events or family events so that parents are not back-logged using the front entrance. Public events at Robson and Sullins will not require sign-ins, but no backpacks will be allowed in either stadium or the Concert Hall, which is already protocol.
• The PCPD and Kay County Sheriff’s Department will provide situational awareness training to all PCPS staff.
• Monitoring will occur to ensure all staff, guests, substitutes and secondary students are wearing ID badges.
• Additional lighting poles will be installed on the south side of the Howell entrance for additional lighting at night.
• More frequent ALICE Training will be implemented for students and staff: Randy Empting and Sean Taglialatela as certified trainers.
• The District is exploring additional armed CLEET Certified security options such as retired PCPD officers or Kay County deputies.
• We are currently reviewing access control options for high traffic areas such as the student entrance in PO-HI.
Arrott told the board about an additional life-saving protocol that will be implemented next year, the RAVE Panic Button. Chief Bohon with the Ponca City Police Department sat in on the RAVE Panic Button training with PCPS and believed this product would be of benefit to PCPS and first responders. The Ponca City 911 Call Center will install the app, and the Rave Panic Button App is already in use at the Kay County Courthouse and they believe it is a “top shelf” product. This app was purchased by the Oklahoma State Department of Education for use by all public schools and charter schools in the state of Oklahoma.
The app can be installed on all staff phones and has five icons including Active Shooter, Fire, Medical, Police and 911 Other. Within the app all our properties are geofenced. Any staff member can activate the panic button app within the geofencing of our properties and will indicate to our first responders the exact location of the threat. Every second counts during an emergency and this feature will pinpoint the location of a threat. To be clear, the app does not track locations unless the panic button is activated.
Layouts of a building or campus can be uploaded into the app for use by the first responders, and the app includes safety features to ensure there are not accidental calls to the 911 Center. Although accidental calls can happen, we all agree that we would rather experience an accidental call rather than risk not having access to our first responders immediately in the event of an emergency. Training will be provided to all staff members when they return to work in the fall. PCPS will continue to inform parents of any lockdown that may be enforced even if it is a false alarm. There have been several instances in which we lockdown sites and have even held buses when there are police issues near any of our sites.
Arrott also reported to the BOE the Ponca City first responder support that is already in place and discussed new protocols to be implemented.
Kay County Undersheriff Sean Grigsba provided information to Arrott about the approach first responders will utilize in the event of an active attack.
“First responders in our city and county-wide use the ALERRT (Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training) model for training to best respond to any “active attack” event our community may encounter. That model is simply putting our Law Enforcement and Fire/EMS staff together to train on three levels of priority WITHOUT HESITATION:
1. Stop the killing of our innocent by the attacker.
2. Stop the dying of those that are severely injured.
3. Rapid evacuation of those in need of trauma care.
Though easy to put onto paper, it is vital to put into practice. These three rules of priority put our Law Enforcement into the “Threat” area or “Hot Zone” immediately to isolate and/or neutralize the threat.
Because every second counts, our first responders then establish a “Warm Zone” that allows for EMS to enter and begin immediate life-saving measures without waiting for the “ALL CLEAR” that was previously used by all.
Lastly, with joint effort of first responders establishes the evacuation of those in need of further life saving measures to the trauma centers by whatever means necessary.”
First responders and Arrott have discussed enhanced collaborative protocols moving forward:
• PCPD beat officers will have a more focused presence at school sites located in their “beat.” Currently they are working 12-hour shifts which will allow for more presence.
• Officers will park squad cars more often at sites, particularly in the mornings and afternoons and officers will greet students upon entering or acknowledging their departure. Beat officers already patrol PC schools and often greet our children, but they will provide a more active presence.
• First responders are collaborating and establishing schedules to practice ALERRT Protocols inside all PCPS facilities this summer to become more acclimated with the layout of all sites.
• Ponca City first responders will provide continual staff training to provide an understanding of what to expect from first responders in the event of an active threat.
Arrott stated, “The safety of our students and staff is a heavy burden to bear during these uncertain times, but PCPS and our Ponca City first responders are committed to securing a tight perimeter around our most valuable assets, our students. As a school superintendent, I feel very blessed to know our first responders are here for us and will protect our students and staff without hesitation. I appreciate their dedication and commitment to serving as role models and protectors of our children and our entire community.”
Chief Don Bohon shared, “For all of us, the safety of our citizens, and most importantly our kids is our most crucial duty. The Ponca City Police Department will continue to constantly communicate, and partner with our schools to do what we can to prevent any incident that threatens our kids, teachers, and school staff. As a group, Kay County Law Enforcement and EMS have trained, and will continue to train to be as proactive and prepared as we can to quickly and effectively deal with any threat to our students.”
Undersheriff Sean Grigsba added, “I know that a continued partnership with the school systems and Law Enforcement/Fire EMS is the only way to keep a high safety standard. It can be expensive and inconvenient at times but the safety of the innocent will always come first.”