Sutro officials look to learn from mishandled emergency drill |

Sutro officials look to learn from mishandled emergency drill

by Karel C. Ancona-Henry
Special to the Appeal

A recent emergency drill gone awry at Sutro Elementary School will be used as an opportunity to learn, school officials said.

The Feb. 29 emergency drill led to the student body being in lockdown, upsetting many of the children. Some of the students either called or text messaged their parents. There was one reported asthma attack and some students expected that someone would come to the school with a gun, teachers said.

The drill was not announced as such, leaving teachers unable to respond to children’s concerns.

“I did ask that we have a drill and (some) believe that if we are to really practice that it had to happen when no one was expecting it,” said Cheryl Sample, school principal, who was at a conference in Las Vegas at the time of the drill.

“Normally before a drill, I’ll go around and give teachers a heads up.”

The drill took place under her direction and through Mark Gardillas, who often helps with administrative duties.

It also seems there was miscommunication, Sample said, noting that emergency protocol was changed per Lyon County School District a year ago, and that the announcement that was made was in keeping with that change, though the word “drill” was not included in the announcement as it should have been.

Sample said staff had been notified of the change, but some teachers said they were unaware of the protocol change.

“There is a certain protocol in place that the schools have worked out with Lyon County Sheriff Department and the SWAT team,” Sample said. “We’ve been trying a variety of ways that we can keep our kids safe if there ever is an actual situation, and this is something I’ve been talking with other school administrators about, as well.

“I realized we had been practicing too little and now it’s time to figure out the best way to get kids to respond without scaring them.”

In response to the children’s phone calls and text messages, Sample said that in the event of an actual situation parents would be contacted through Ed Connect, the district-wide automated phone system that was put in place last year in response to a lockdown that happened at Silver Stage High School.

“Either Mark or myself will immediately send out an Ed Connect message if it were ever real,” she said. “I would say to parents if they’re not getting an Ed Connect message, there’s nothing to worry about.”

Sample planned to review protocol with her teachers, and perhaps learn from their perspective what about existing protocol doesn’t work.

“We can use (this incident) as a learning experience for where we need to improve,” she said.

• Karel Ancona-Henry can be reached at or at 246-4000.