SHOREWOOD – Troy School District 30-C teamed up with Holy Family Parish and local law enforcement to conduct an active shooter drill Friday at Troy Crossroads Elementary School.
Students were off for the day while more than 600 teachers and administrators participated, playing the parts of schoolchildren and staff.
Some teachers had misgivings about even participating in the stressful scenario, but the event was necessary to keep students safe, just as a fire drill or tornado drill would be, Shorewood Chief of Police Aaron Klima said.
The plan had an active shooter entering the school building as preschool children unloaded from the morning bus. In the scenario, a parent began shooting at teachers and students, calling his child’s name, as he made his way through hallways to the cafeteria.
The school went into lockdown, with teachers locking themselves and students in classrooms.
The shooter continued shooting as he entered the school library, and then went outside, where he took hostages on a school bus.
Neighboring communities dispatched first responders to assist Shorewood police, and a SWAT team was called in to handle the hostage situation.
“Going through a drill like this is not the same as going through it on note-cards,” Klima said. “This is the event that has to take place. We all have to be prepared; it’s the world we live in.”
The drill plan took 18 months to put together, Klima said, and took the cooperation of schools, police and fire agencies to pull off, including Shorewood and Plainfield police, the Troy Fire Protection District and the Will County Sheriff’s Office. It was a learning experience for everyone involved.
“[Afterward] we will review what went right and what went wrong,” Klima said.
School staff, police and fire responders all met back at Holy Family Parish gymnasium for a debriefing to watch a video of the drill and to answer questions from the participants – and there were plenty of questions.
Those holed up in the art room were only given the all clear to come out when the drill had ended, leaving them feeling like they had been forgotten in the chaos.
Jason Keema and Jason Barten, two of the officers who were part of the planning process, explained that the drill had been cut short because of time constraints, but in a real scenario every classroom would be checked.
“There would be several sweeps to evacuate,” Barten said. “If this were to take place, we would have help coming from all over the place.”
A drill of this magnitude is important, Klima later said. It validates the plan that’s in place and gives direction to what needs to be changed for the future.
For the district’s part, Superintendent Todd Koehl said he is proud of how his staff participated and responded. The idea was to make the drill as realistic as possible to get a feel for what it might be like and how everyone would respond.
The district plans to create a question-and-answer handout, which will include ways it intends to improve its response in emergencies, Koehl said.
“So districtwide we have a clear cut reaction and plan to this type of situation,” he said.