News of another mass shooting at a school bares a stark reminder of one lesson our children have to learn in a place where they should be the safest.
"I don't care for the fact that our staff members even have to think like that as they come into work or that our students have to think like that when they are simply trying to learn," said Sioux City Community School District Superintendent, Dr. Paul Gausman, "but they do have to be prepared and the students and staff have handled that very admirably."
The Sioux City and South Sioux City Community School Districts prepare for any emergency, running drills several times a year and making sure staff and students are as prepared as possible should something ever occur.
"What can we do as school leaders, as parents, as community members to prevent anything from happening in the future that in any way resembles this," said South Sioux City Community School District Superintendent, Todd Strom.
"We have a series of crisis plans in this district and from the school board all the way through the staff members in the district, we cover those each school year," Gausman said. Those plans are never made public, even discussed in closed sessions by the school board.
"We've done more in the last 5 years than this district has done in history in terms of preparing students and staff for the way in which they will react should a tragic situation occur," Gausman said.
Safety within the buildings is paramount for both districts. Each has implemented a locked door system with camera entry during the school day.
But there is one other major point of impact Sioux City and South Sioux City have focused on as well: mental health.
" We are providing more mental health services in schools than we've ever provided in history," said Gausman. "And I am not talking about Sioux City, I'm talking about the nation and that has even grown stronger with the pandemic."
Sioux City has utilized COVID funding to add several new mental health services and plans to continue those services after that funding has lapsed.
And South Sioux City has implemented the "Safe 2 Help" program for mental health assistance, placing magnets and signs throughout each building and sending resources home with students.
Both districts also partner with their local law enforcement to have police officers within their buildings for additional support.
"We have two SRO officers that are highly trained and are there for that reason, to provide safety," said Strom, "but also to provide an outlet for students to talk to and share things."
Both districts share a common message and one of importance: if you see something say something. "There is a difference between gossiping and reporting something that causes you concern," said Gausman.
Strom echoed that message, saying, "nothing is too small. Bring it forward and we want to help each other and we want to lift each other up."
At the end of the day, student and staff safety is both districts' top priority.
"This is not the kind of topic that I want our staff and students to have to think about," Gausman said, "but they do and so it falls on us as the leaders of the district to prepare an environment for them where they can prevent challenges from occurring in every situation possible and react properly should something make it past the prevention stage."
"It definitely does take a village," said Strom. "This is evidence that we all need to be collaborating for the best practices and things for our kids. They are our most precious asset."
Both districts offer online resources for students and staff.
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