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School Emergency Alerts Reviewed After Lockdown This Week
By Kera Mashek
March 26, 2014


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Kera Mashek) During a police chase to find two shooting suspects on Charleston's west side Tuesday, Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary was put on lockdown. But a lot of parents were angry they had no idea what was happening, until they showed up to pick up their kids.

We take a look at why Kanawha County's school notification system wasn't used and how the incident this week might prompt changes in the future.

It's a frightening scene, dozens of police officers surrounding a school. Right when classes should be letting out for the day. And we got an earful from some parents Tuesday who came to pick up their kids, only to be held off until two shooting suspects were safely in police custody..

"We're not getting notified until it's way too late, so I'm yanking my son out of this school," a parent said.

Superintendent Ron Duerring says it was a frantic situation that potentially impacted several schools on the west side.

"Really the school didn't know anything about it until they were dismissing kids and then police came and told them to get back inside the building," said Dr. Ron Duerring, Kanawha Co. superintendant.

The district does have an auto-call phone system it uses to warn parents with a call or text about school closings and emergencies like this. But right now, before a message can ever go out., it has to be approved by a principal, and Duerring says sometimes-when a situation is chaotic, putting out that message isn't the top priority.

"The typical response is to make sure all the kids are safe, and that's their first concern above anything: get them back in, get it secure, and of course calm the kids down. Because with things like that, kids get excited or upset, emotional, and worried something's not right. So their first primary goal is to take care of that, help the children first," said Duerring.

But it still begs another question.

"Is there something in the future that can be done better to maybe designating a person in the building to make sure that message gets out?" Eyewitness News said.

"Yeah, and I think that's something that every time we have a crisis like this, we always review what's happened and evaluate our actions and at least ask ourselves what we could do better the next time, and that's one of the things we'll take a look at maybe the next time when something like this occurs, at least one designated person may get to send out that parent link message," said Duerring.

In case you're wondering, Cabell County Schools also do calls, text, email and social media messaging for parents..

In Putnam, schools have both an automated call and optional email alert system, and principals have to consult with the superintendent before sending out a message...

The University of Charleston and West Virginia State also have alert systems that include calls, texts, emails and social media posts.

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