HARTSELLE — A live school-shooting drill using fake weapons — the first of its kind in the county — could take place next month at F.E. Burleson Elementary.
Hartselle school board members voted unanimously Monday night to move forward with planning for the event in conjunction with local authorities.
The board also voted to allow the architects Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood to seek bids for a new heating and cooling system at the current Hartselle High School on Sparkman Street.
Junior high students will relocate to that building after high school students move to the new $44 million Hartselle High School on Bethel Road.
Morgan County Emergency Management agency Director Eddie Hicks asked for 6 to 8 weeks to plan the shooting drill with Hartselle police and firefighters.
Hicks said the drill, tentatively set for Feb. 27 or 28, would aim to identify and shore up weaknesses in school security.
“It’s not really pass or fail,” he said.
Officials across the country have weighed plans to tighten school security following the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., that claimed the lives of 20 students and six teachers.
“I think it would add an additional layer to our safety protocol and better prepare us,” said Student Operations Director Jerry Reeves, who also presented the school system’s plan to rearrange its safety planning to meet a national format.
As part of the drill, a “suspect” from one of the agencies would enter the school armed with weapons that “will obviously not be real,” Hicks said.
Superintendent William Michael Reed said the exercise would test the reaction of school officials as they locked down rooms and evacuated students.
School board members were cautious of alarming students and parents.
Board member Randy Sparkman voiced concern when Hicks told the board other school districts in the county haven’t experimented with such drills.
“We like being an innovator, but I’m not sure we want to be the first,” Sparkman said.
Board members decided they would have adequate time to alert parents and students in the meantime, and to arrange for students whose parents did not want them to participate to be released and picked up from school, if they decide to hold the drill.
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