Carson City School District looks to be ready ‘before a bad day’

Carson City risk manager Ann Cyr, standing, listens to feedback from Carson City School District administrators after a reunification drill at Monday’s training at Fuji Hall.

Carson City risk manager Ann Cyr, standing, listens to feedback from Carson City School District administrators after a reunification drill at Monday’s training at Fuji Hall.
Photo by Jessica Garcia.

  • Discuss Comment, Blog about
  • Print Friendly and PDF

More than 100 Carson City School District employees took part in their first reunification drill Monday in Fuji Hall. They set up stations, established communications systems and filled out paperwork to connect parents with students after a hypothetical active-shooter scenario impacting a school campus.

The drill reinforced staff members’ skills in assigning roles as incident command leaders in an emergency situation. They also identified weaknesses or challenges if a step didn’t make sense or if they needed to manage resources more efficiently before a possible bad day comes.

“The objectives of the training were to improve knowledge of emergency response procedures, the Incident Command System (ICS) and our emergency communication systems,” district risk manager Ann Cyr told the Appeal.

It also kept emergency management mitigation skills they’d learned from Carly Posey — mother of two Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting survivors who talked about the importance of safety protocols at Carson High School in August — fresh on their minds, Cyr said.

Carson City’s teachers are required to attend regular trainings annually, but the reunification drill was the district’s first opportunity to play out the procedures.

“None of us hope (an incident) would happen anywhere,” she said. “But I think the most important message that our staff can take away is when you see something, say something. It always starts with one person, the one person who takes the initiative.”

Monday’s training included tabletop exercises and discussion on how to prepare for a winter weather storm or an armed intruder entering a school building. Forms, signs and other resources were provided by the I Love U Guys Foundation, which assists school districts with school safety protocols and trainings.

Staff members also heard from Carson City emergency manager Jon Bakkedahl, who previously served with the Nevada Division of Emergency Management. Among key topics of the day, he addressed how every educator helps to maintain calm in the middle of chaos. He encouraged them to assess what happens afterward when helping large bodies of students, taking into account medical needs, having them serve as first responders and analyzing where communication or other gaps might occur.

“If schools can’t operate, life doesn’t operate,” he told participants.

Jessica Garcia / Nevada Appeal
Superintendent Andrew Feuling, playing along Monday as a parent assigned to pick up three of his students in a reunification drill, was tasked with filling out cards at a table set up by Eagle Valley Middle School Principal Lee Conley.



Bakkedahl told the Appeal his assessment of Cyr’s risk management program has been well developed under her oversight and it sets up Carson City’s schools for better safety.

He said he looks forward to seeing Cyr take it to the next level of full-scale exercises where administrators could hold active-assailant exercises at a school site every couple of years.

“They can be challenged with the moving parts and see the effects of that come out versus the convenience of sitting and talking (in discussions),” Bakkedahl said. “They can see their stresses and limitations.”

Carson City’s training came after a school shooting on Jan. 4 at Perry High School in Dallas County, Iowa, in which a 17-year-old killed a sixth-grader and wounded seven others.

But it’s not just the active assailants school personnel should be trained for, Cyr and Bakkedahl urged. Any type of threat and its level of severity — a gas leak, flooding, an earthquake, loss of power — can impact classroom instruction or district operations at any time, and staff should be ready to help connect families with a child during a school day when instruction is interrupted.

The reunification drill is important for all staff members to be familiar with at any time since the district has never needed to complete an actual reunification in a live emergency situation, Cyr said.

Bakkedahl told staff members it’s important to be ready now and “exercise your plan before a bad day,” which includes not just the medical and first aid processes but providing psychological care to students who experience a traumatic event.

Jessica Garcia / Nevada Appeal

Staff members play the role of parents waiting to pick up their students during the Carson City School District’s reunification drill for administrators Monday.



Bridget Gordon, school counselor at Carson High School, said staff members at her table talked about mental health needs being a major component of their plan, whether the incident response might be an earthquake or a snow day.

“Panic and anxiety and fear are already so prevalent and if anything happens, in our plan at Carson High School, the counselors and school social workers’ job is just to be with the students,” she said.

Gordon said the national standard is 250 students to one social worker or school counselor at the secondary level and said Carson High is close to it. However, with 14 school counselors total in the district, any of them are willing to go to any Carson campus and provide support, she said.

The training itself served as a reminder that the district offers connections to other staff members who are willing to help at any time to problem-solve when needed.

“I certainly think we need to put into place partnerships with the community … which we have some good ones through Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education), but maybe expanding that,” Gordon said. “We also found with the high school we needed to expand more formalized plans, like who’s calling who and what everyone’s job is.”

Cyr said Tuesday she received positive feedback on the training.

“School employees appreciated the opportunity for everyone to gather together and discuss emergency response procedures and what support is available from both the district level and community partners,” Cyr said.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment