For many parents, safety for their children at school is always a top
Anxieties are now higher as school shooting tragedies around the nation have
dominated news headlines recently.
Despite the sudden spike of such occurrences, statistics still show the
chance of finding yourself in the middle of a school shooting is extremely
low, but the staff and students at Discovery Charter School are learning
precautions with local law enforcement agencies, just in case.
“Schools are relatively safe, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to be
prepared,” said Ernesto Martinez, director of Discovery Charter School.
During Wednesday night’s Discovery board of directors meeting, Martinez gave
a show and tell of safety instructions the school has had this past week.
Starting on Monday, Nick Kokot of Strategos International LLC and various
officers from the Porter County Sheriff’s Police, Porter Police Department,
Portage Police Department, Highland Police Department and a Gary Police
Detective have guided Discovery students and staff in ways to protect
themselves and fight back against an active shooter. Kokot is also an
officer with the East Chicago Police Department.
Staff practiced the process of a school lockdown and barricading themselves
inside their classrooms as an effective strategy to deter a shooter. While
hiding is usually a person’s first instinct, they should always be prepared
to fight back. Staff practiced defensive measures, with officers pretending
to be the shooter trying to breach classroom doors.
Other drills involved what to do in face-to-face contact with a shooter such
as using a fire extinguisher to temporarily blind him or her and throwing
objects (using ping-pong balls in drill practice instead of blunt objects).
Students learned skills of what to do in a lockdown such as not exiting the
classroom during a fire alarm unless directed by a teacher. Sometimes a
shooter will pull the alarm to get people to come outside.
Martinez said the school will practice lockdown drills regularly each month.
Police officers were taught rapid deployment response techniques and how to
look for the shooter. Discovery will also allow police departments to
continue to train at the school to become more familiar with the layout.
Martinez listed a few items the school board could purchase to enhance
safety such as a door guardian plate that acts like a brace to prevent
break-ins and shatter-proof film for the windows. The school in the meantime
has placed a security camera at the back door in addition to one in front.
Martinez added that the school doors are locked at all times during the day.
“I think it’s great that we are being so proactive,” said board president
Martinez said Kokot will be present on Saturday for a meeting with Discovery
parents at 10 a.m. to give them a chance to ask questions. A second meeting
for parents will be on Thursday, Jan. 31 at the school.
Next Wednesday, the staff will meet with East Chicago Police Chief and
former F.B.I. agent Mark Becker on how they can train their emotions to work
calmly in a lockdown situation.
In other business, Martinez reminded that the application deadline for the
kindergarten admissions lottery is 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 20.
The lottery will be on Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. in the school cafeteria before the
regular board meeting.
Martinez said siblings of current Discovery students will be guaranteed
spots and there have been 21 of those applications so far. All other spots
will be put in a clear case and will be drawn at random by an outside party.
Discovery is holding open houses on Jan. 28, 30, and Feb. 5, 8, 12, 14, and
19 during the school day for prospective families. Applications and times
are available on the school’s website.
Intent to return forms are being mailed out to families and are due back in
two weeks, Martinez said.
management company American Quality Schools honored the school with an
outstanding achievement award for the 2011-2012 school year.
For that year,
Discovery had the highest student performance compared with the other
schools in the AQS pool. The organization headquartered in Chicago manages
eight schools in Indiana, two in Chicago, and one in Missouri.
Discovery also received an award from the National Park Trust’s Buddy Bison
Wednesday, board member Janine Girzadas announced the Parents Advisory
Council’s spring event/fundraiser will be on April 13 at the Uptown Center
for Performing Arts in Michigan City from 6 to 10 p.m. with the theme “We’re
PAC helped raise
$4,200 for Discovery in 2012, Girzadas said.