In the wake of the shocking shooting at a Newtown, CT, elementary school on Friday, Dec. 14, officials reunited parents with their children.
They had help from a reverse 911 call that automatically went out to parents of the public school students to notify them about the shooting.
The Seneca Valley School District has a similar system called AlertNow. Information about the system is contained in the student handbook, and is available on the district website.
Emergency Information (AlertNow)
When Seneca Valley has a closing or delay, the district first utilizes AlertNow, a parent notification system, which is programmed to call the primary phone number as listed for each child.
In an emergency situation, or in the event that the district goes from a two-hour delay to a closure, an emergency call will be sent to all provided numbers per student (this is the primary number and up to two additional numbers provided per child) so the information reaches all those affected by the emergency or change in status.
AlertNow information is collected/updated at the beginning of every school year, and parents are encouraged to call the district throughout the year to provide updates when necessary.
Working with Police
Chief Terry Seilhamer said police in Jackson Township, where Seneca Valley’s secondary campus is located, have worked with the district to form a comprehensive plan on how to deal with emergencies.
“There are certain responsibilities that they have and certain responsibilities that we have,” he said.
For example, Seilhamer said a key person at the school district, such as Superintendent Dr. Tracy Vitale, would be designated as the decision maker in a time of crisis.
A police officer also would be paired with the district’s spokesperson, Linda Andreassi, to coordinate the information released to the public, he said. The district would update the public on information regarding student and school matters. The officer would handle updates from police.
“They would work together, but they would have clear lines of responsibilities,” he said.
All district buildings have a number displayed in the windows to help identify the different areas to Jackson police, as well as to outside law enforcement agencies who may not be as familiar with the campus. There also are numbers on the roofs that are visible to aircrafts, Seilhamer said.
The chief said police regularly meet with the district’s staff to review the plan, which covers responses to a variety of potential scenarios. These include hostage situations and what do if there is an accident involving hazardous material on nearby Interstate 79.
In the summer months, officers also will do a walk through of the schools to re-familiarize themselves with the buildings, he said.
"The administration is really proactive as far as not waiting for an incident to happen," he said.
The district also has a constant police presence at the school.
School resource officer Hunter Ryan, a member of the Jackson Township police force, has an office at the secondary campus. Seilhamer said Ryan, a Marine veteran, acts as a liaison between the district and the police and also conducts classes on driving under the influence and the ramifications of drug use.
“He has excellent rapport with the students and staff,” Seilhamer said.
Police Investigate Seneca Valley Shooting Rumor
Just prior to Friday’s school shooting in Connecticut, Seilhamer said police began investigating a rumor that a student was planning a shooting at the senior high school.
Seilhamer called the information police received as "third hand" and vague, but said police are following up on it. He said Ryan and the administrative team at the senior high school are aware of the rumor.
“We’re looking into it,” he said. “If we feel it’s necessary, we will increase our uniformed police presence at the school.”