The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District along with the police departments from the City of Middleton and Village of Cross Plains have a long history of working together to make the 10 schools in the district safe for students and staff.
The police chiefs from the respective departments, Brad Keil of Middleton and Tom Janssen of Cross Plains, met with Superintendent Don Johnson and district administrators on Monday morning to review the safety and security measures in the district in the wake of the school shooting on Friday in Connecticut.
“The Middleton Police Department is very committed to school safety,” Keil said. “We will continue to partner with the district to keep officers in our schools and to improve our efforts to keep our children safe.”
Added Janssen: The Cross Plains Police Department has worked closely with the district and the schools to make sure our children are as safe as possible. It is a cooperative process. We work on exercises, review and improve emergency plans, develop additional security measures, and have ongoing discussions to make sure we are prepared if an emergency happens.’’
Over the weekend, staff at all of the schools were also reminded what district policies and procedures are related to safety and security.
Tom Wohlleber, the assistant superintendent for business services who coordinates the district’s school safety program, said the district’s emergency crisis response plans have been in place since the late 1990s. The plans were created using best practices from around the country along with involving school staff, and personnel from emergency management police, fire and local EMT and CMT agencies.
The plan is revisited and updated annually, he said. Regular meetings are held with law enforcement, including the Dane County Sheriff's Department -- which services West Middleton Elementary -- along with the fire departments and EMTs to review the plans.
The district also installed secured entrances at all of its schools over the past few years.
The district also holds table top exercises at all of its schools each year and does monthly drills for other potential emergencies. Local law enforcement and representatives from other local emergency response agencies assist with the design and facilitate the exercises. After a table top exercise, the response teams at each school will meet to debrief, Wohlleber said.
“If all you do is have a plan that is sitting up on a shelf and you don’t practice it, it’s not going to be beneficial,’’ he said.
In 2007 the district did a comprehensive threat assessment that evaluated where it should focus its resources and training, he said. The district began using table top exercises in 2009.
The district’s emergency response plan is based on best practices such as the National Incident Management System. A big advantage to this is that it is a scalable process that outlines the roles and responsibilities of school staff in responding to an emergency or crisis, Wohlleber said.
Finally, all MCPASD administrators have to go through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s training. In addition, MCPASD will be assessing any next steps to refine and improve emergency responses and other related security and safety practices.
“We want some balance,’’ said Johnson, who believes MCPASD is ahead of the vast majority of school districts when it comes to security. “We can’t predict every emergency, but we must prepare our staff as much as possible.’’