PCSD 32 board gives recap of threats


The Perry County School District School Board held a special incident review recap meeting stemming from the threats directed at the district on Jan 11-13 at the Perryville Area Career Center Feb. 2.
“There are some things we are going to do better,” Board President Nancy Voelker said. “My takeaway from the incident is that our goal was achieved because we kept 100 percent of the students and faculty safe. I don’t feel that there was a goal that needed to be achieved at 100 percent, but that one.”
On Jan. 11, police received multiple phone calls detailing a possible bomb on the school district’s Perryville campus leading to a temporary partial evacuation of the district campus. On Jan. 13, another early morning call threatened a mass shooting. School officials were able to quickly make the decision to cancel school for the day, alerting parents of the threat and closing shortly after 5 a.m.
In both cases, extensive searches by officers from the police department and the sheriff’s office found no weapons or incendiary devices.
A juvenile suspect accused of making the threats has since been arrested and in police custody.
“If no one was found to have made the threats, I don’t know how safe we would still feel in school,” Voelker said.
Deputy Superintendent Dr. Fara Jones went over the timeline of events, and went over things that could have been done better and what is being done to fix these issues.
“I think it’s important to recognize some of the successes from those days as it pertains to our emergency action plan,” Jones said. “We safely evacuated 1,200 students and reunified them with parents who chose to sign them out and we safely returned those students who stayed back to school to continue the day.”
Jones identified some issues that could be improved including reassigning certain duties within the emergency action plan so that it will be more efficient, created a contact document with updated information, and use available communication tools.

One of those tools is an application that can be downloaded by a parent or guardian directly to their phone.
The V Alert Mobile App is tied directly to the emergency push buttons at all district facilities. These buttons are activated by staff to sound alarms and provide instructions to students and staff in the event of an emergency on campus. Those who download the V-Alert Mobile App will automatically be notified via a push notification on the app when a district school activates an emergency button.
“I think this should really help,” Board Vice President Jamie Robinson said. “Before this we had no way to instantly notify everyone,” he said. “We had so many people in so many different places. Some students were walking to school, some were on the bus, and others were being dropped off.”
District Communication Director Kate Martin said that the V-Alert would not have been activated during the Jan. 11 evacuation of the middle and high schools. This is because no emergency button was pushed; the district was informed of the threat by local law enforcement. If the V-Alert notification is used, follow-up messages with additional details and instructions for parents will be sent as soon as possible during a crisis, as usual.
Along with the app, Martin said that parent education is also key, as well as faculty training.
“We also want to educate the parents on district processes,” she said. “We can’t always tell them why we do things because that’s part of our emergency operations plan that we share with law enforcement. However, there are ways to get parents that information so that they are well-informed.”
One of the several questions brought up by parents was the fact that parents were dropping students on campus during the process. Jones said that is it unusual that the threats came that early in the morning.
“It couldn’t have happened at a worse time because the students were coming and being dropped off before we knew we were going,” she said.
School Resource Officer Theresa Worington echoed that sentiment.
“It adds another layer with it being at that point in the school day. From our timeline it takes several minutes for the communication to get where it needs to go,” she said. “We have students being dropped off by 6:50 a.m., so my mind is on those kids and getting them out of the building. It’s something that we are going to sit down and discuss further.”