The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

September 6, 2013

Security drill is near for Conneaut schools

CONNEAUT — School officials in Conneaut are getting closer to a dress rehearsal of its elaborate security program.

At a Wednesday night joint meeting with City Council, administrators said the district is nearly ready to test its response to an armed intruder situation. “Fall could see the start of a lockdown procedure practice,” said Joel Taylor, Conneaut Middle School principal.

Taylor is one of two school employees trained in the ALICE (alert-lockdown-inform-counter-evacuate) program. City police and firefighters have also been educated in the ALICE technique. The trainers, in turn, are sharing their knowledge with school staff and students.

Also in the near future will be a full drill that will involve city police and firefighters, Taylor said.

Conneaut’s program involves existing surveillance cameras and public address systems to notify staff of problems and to help keep tabs on the shooter’s whereabouts and meeting locations away from schools for students and staff who escape.

The latest tools were introduced at the start of the school year: special door locks that can be inserted between the floor and the bottom of the door. Once in place, they make entry nearly impossible, said Kent Houston, Conneaut Area City Schools superintendent. Administrators examined every door in every building to gauge the number of locks needed, he said.

In other business, council was briefed on the district’s efforts to join an athletic conference. Conneaut schools have been playing an independent schedule since the Northeast Conference dissolved in 2008.

A lack of conference title possibilities is hurting the district, said Jim Campbell, athletic administrator.

“Our numbers have dropped in every sport,” he said at the meeting. “The kids have nothing to play for except at state tournament time.”

Conneaut is still angling for a spot in either the Northeastern Athletic or All-American conferences, which include other county schools as members, officials have said. Efforts to launch a conference comprised of Ashtabula County schools have failed, council learned. That’s sad news, members said.

“It’s a shame our local teams can’t get together,” said Ward 2 Councilman Phil Garcia.

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