School board mandates emergency parent, child reunification plans. Will Southern Utah schools be ready?

In this file photo, students are evacuated Pine View High School in St. George, Utah, March 5, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Utah’s public schools will be required to have published plans for reuniting students with their parents during emergencies under a rule approved by the State Board of Education.

The board approved the requirement Thursday while deciding against requiring schools to conduct reunification drills, according to a report by The Associated Press.

Law enforcement at Pine View High School following an evacuation as the result of a suspicious package found on school grounds, St. George, Utah, March 5, 2018 | File photo by Spencer Ricks, St. George News

However, board spokesman Mark Peterson said reunification drills are being added to the list of various types of emergency drills that schools can choose among for required practice each year.

The timing of the board’s action doesn’t allow the requirement for a published reunification plan to be in effect during the entire 2018-19 school year, Peterson said.

Peterson told The Associated Press that state Superintendent Sydnee Dickson is notifying districts about the board’s actions and urging them to communicate with parents on reunification plans as soon as possible.

Washington County School District already has a reunification plan in place if an emergency were to arise. According to its offsite evacuation and family reunification plan, if an emergency were to happen, school officials would make the following announcement:

Evacuate! to (remote site). We will be implementing the Family Reunification protocol from that location. Please have students take their belongings.

The school district has a certain protocol for teachers to follow, including having a reunification site commander. For elementary and intermediate school students, the school district conducts a quick release — students are released from outside a classroom door, supervised by a teacher — and a slow release — students are released from a reunification station outside the building, facilitated by the family reunification team.

For middle and high school students, it’s the same release protocol, except those students can release themselves if their parents have signed an emergency release permission form.

Iron County School District’s campus safety and emergency preparedness plan is less detailed than Washington County’s. According to its policy, the safety of students and staff should be met with “preparedness response which insures that the health and safety of students and staff are safeguarded.”

According to Iron County’s policy on bomb threats and false alarms, the prime concern is the safety of students; however, the policy states that schools won’t necessarily evacuate or dismiss classes as a result of threatening messages.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • mesaman August 4, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    Now if only the WCSD would implement tighter and more secure entries into its public schools I would find greater confidence in their overall security measures.

    • AnnieMated August 6, 2018 at 2:06 pm

      Mesaman, I worked for years with these people and I can tell you, they do the best they can. the problee is that Utah’s conservative population hates education. Ever notice how they always seem to come up a few dollars short when it comes to education but have no problem shelling out 10+ percent of their gross income to the Mormon church? Of course, they also expect schools to not only educate their children but feed them as well. The line for “free and reduced” breakfast and lunch was astoundingly long. To be fair though, every one of those parents had the latest iPhone though! Because Priorities!

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