By Susan Tebben
Boardman police, the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office and other first-responders will have no idea what they’re responding to Wednesday at Boardman Center Middle School.
But the live-shooter scenario they will be acting out that morning will prepare them, should they ever find themselves in a real situation.
“We’re attempting to make this as realistic as possible,” said Boardman Police Chief Jack Nichols. “The purpose is to find our mistakes so we can learn from them for the real thing.”
At a news conference Monday at the school, Nichols, Sheriff Jerry Greene and Tim Drummond, Boardman assistant fire chief, explained how the local response will be.
Nichols said the scenario was being written for them by a retired security assessment expert who had worked with Boardman in the past. The scenario will not be revealed to law enforcement or anyone else until Wednesday morning when the call is made to respond.
Supervisory Senior Special Agent Tracey Bradford of the Youngstown office for the Federal Bureau of Investigation said the agency also attended the conference to support the local agencies and see what it could learn from these situations as well.
For Boardman schools Superintendent Frank Lazzeri, the situation will be helpful for the district despite the fact that the students are on spring break and only about 5 percent of the student population will be present.
“We do lockdown drills monthly,” Lazzeri said, adding that the drills are seen as a bit tedious because they are known about ahead of time. “But the antenna will be up for this.”
Parent volunteers have been recruited to act as though their children are inside, and to test police reaction.
“Traffic would be essentially shut down in front of the building if this were happening, and parents would be jumping out of their cars and demanding to see their kids,” Nichols said. “So we have to have them so police can react to that as well.”
When the scenario ends Wednesday afternoon, everyone involved will be able to go over the scene and “confess our sins,” Nichols said, to assess response. The results will be used to formulate better policies and protocols for events such as school shootings.
The school district will get to see more of what could be improved about its crisis plan, a strategy that constantly is being reviewed, Lazzeri said. After the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the district installed a buzz-in system in the high school and is looking for more ways to increase security, including the funding to do so.
A permanent improvement levy that originally was passed in 1988 has dropped in funding from 1.6 mills to less than 1 mill, Lazzeri said. In January, the board decided to pursue a replacement levy to bring the funding back to 1.6 mills for the five-year levy. The levy would raise $821,219 annually.
“It comes to about a nickel a day for everyone with a $100,000 home,” Lazzeri said, or $18.25 annually for the homeowner.
With buildings in the district that still don’t have public communication systems in every classroom, Lazzeri said the levy would help bring about more improvements that could help the schools and law enforcement if any emergencies should occur.