Reunification meeting

Teachers and staff from WestWood Elementary learn about the district’s new incident response policy from Administrative Assistant to the Assistant Superintendent Joan Heise, Assistant Director of Operations, Transportation,Health and Safety Maureen Mullen and Glendale Elementary Principal Jennifer Molitor during an Oct. 31 meeting.

A newly unveiled reunification plan will streamline and standardize Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools’ response to situations like tornadoes, gas leaks or other incidents, officials said this week.

The plan, which updates the district’s previous response procedures, more clearly assigns roles to administration staff, lays out what parents should do and establishes a more orderly way for families to be reunited at pre-selected secondary sites in case of an emergency. It was unveiled Friday.

“We hope to put this plan on the shelf and never have to use it, but we need a plan otherwise,” Maureen Mullen, the district’s assistant director of Operations, Transportation, Health and Safety, said.

Mullen said the major differences between this plan and the district’s previous policy were the use of IDs and information cards to verify parent-student relationships and the creation of a rapid response team — the specific administrative staff trained to set up and manage the reunification site in the case of a school incident.

In an emergency, students and teachers would evacuate from their schools and be transported to one of two reunification sites. There, students are accounted and cared for on one side of the building while administrative staff members meet parents on the other.

Parents and guardians would fill out a reunification card with their and their students’ information. Once the staff has cross-referenced the card’s information with the district’s records and the parent’s photo ID, a staff member finds the student and brings them to the family member in a secondary waiting area.

Mullen said the new policy and training do more than just “check the boxes.” A small group of principals, administrative staff and the superintendent and assistant superintendent traveled to Colorado last summer to learn from school security consultants.

The group heard from John-Michael Keyes, who founded the I Love You Guys Foundation in 2009 with his wife following the death of their daughter, Emily, in a violent hostage situation at her school, and the parents of other children who have died in school shootings in the last two decades.

Joan Heise, administrative assistant to the assistant superintendent, said the families are using their experiences to push for systematic change, even in districts currently untouched by school violence like Prior Lake.

“Sandy Hook, Columbine, Platt Canyon, Virginia Tech; there just was no structure at all,” Heise said. “They just don’t want us to be caught flat-footed without a plan in place.”

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