Some Verona grade school boys may remember the “hard lockdown” Thursday at their elementary school as the day they got to pee in a bucket in a janitor’s closet.
Verona Area School District Superintendent Dean Gorrell emailed a frank letter of apology to parents Friday for “not having adequate (or any) communication” about the lockdown while authorities searched for a dangerous suspect nearby.
As for the boys and their temporary bathrooms, that was simply a matter of protocol, safety and expedience, as the elementary school gymnasium where staff and students were under lockdown has no immediate access to bathrooms.
Gorrell said he had received no complaints about that as of Friday afternoon. The children were not allowed to go to bathrooms outside of the gym because it would have required their presence in a hallway, and staff “made provisions for students to relieve themselves in private,” he said.
On the topic of communication to parents and others about the lockdown, Gorrell said a new notification system called SchoolReach Instant Parent Contact has already been purchased and should be online for the next school year.
Not all parents were alerted to the lockdown Thursday because the “e-notify” system contacts only those who sign up for it. The new SchoolReach system is mandatory and can be programmed to alert various populations, he said. So, though as many as 5,000 students were locked down, only 600 parents had signed up for text message alerts and 1,650parents had signed up for email alerts.
The district made five website posts about the lockdown between 12:45 and 3:29 p.m., and posted one e-notification at 3:28 p.m., he said. While parents were allowed to pick up their children, they were also required to show identification. Lines formed.
Elementary students were released at 3:45 p.m. and high school students at 4:30 p.m.
“We never want any of our kids to feel uncomfortable in school, and we don’t want parents to feel uncomfortable either. We did the best we could with the information we had,” Gorrell said.
“We had no idea where (the suspect) was at, and it wasn’t unreasonable to think a person, if trapped, would resort to desperate measures. We didn’t want to put anyone in harm’s way.”