Editor’s note: This is part one of a three part series covering topics of discussion during the ACS board of education’s planning session.


Sitting in a circular arrangement in the board room of the Education Services Center on Saturday morning, the Ardmore City Schools Board of Education began discussing the future.
The board met for its annual planning session to discuss the trajectory of the district for the next three to five years and determining a roadmap on how to achieve the goals of the district.
Segueing from his opening remarks, ACS superintendent Kim Holland started the meeting by discussing school safety with the board members, briefing them on some recent events. Holland said two school resource officers attended ALICE training in Oklahoma City, which aims to prepare organizations to respond to the threat of an active shooter. Officers Ruben Garcia and John Randolph  attended the trainings, with ACS and the Ardmore Police Department splitting the cost of the training.
Holland said with trainings and recent research it has been determined that the traditional instructions of how to respond to the threat of an active shooter are no longer adequate, with several flaws in the old system. In the past, teachers and students have been advised to lock their doors, turn off the lights and gather into a corner out of sight from an intruder. Holland said this method has proven to be flawed.
“What they discovered is that just makes a large target for the shooter to hit,” Holland said of the old instructions. “There are some things we discovered you can do to barricade the door so it makes it harder for a shooter to get into the room.”
Holland said in creating a new strategic safety plan, the district will begin looking at methods and protocol that provide the most protection to students during a lockdown situation. Holland said the district, along with help from local authorities and the resource officers, will determine the best plan of action in the event of an emergency and begin implementing the new instructions.
ACS board member James Foreman asked Holland if the district had any plan to combat cellphone usage in the event of an emergency. During the lockdown in the fall early this year, some students contacted parents through cellular devices with inaccurate information, which led to parents storming to the school to get their children. In the event of a lockdown, if there were an active shooter, Holland said having tons of extra people on campus would create a more dangerous situation.
“The more people you have the more confusing it becomes,” Holland said. “It’s for their safety as well as others.”
Board member Harry Springer posed the idea of potentially blocking off the highway that runs adjacent to the middle school and high school in the event of a lockdown. Holland responded by saying the schools, during the last lockdown, had an officer block the entrances to the schools and blocking an entire road would be a question for law enforcement.
“We’re putting this new plan together as we speak,” Holland said. “Law enforcement is a big piece of it.”
While practicing preventive measures are crucial for an emergency, Holland said being in hallways daily and communicating with students can go a long way in prevention of serious security situations. Teachers, principals and counselors stand on the front lines of safety and Holland said its important for faculty to always be talking to students and developing relationships, which could help identify when a student is struggling or has an issue.  
“Those relationships with principals, teachers and counselors become key,” Board member Steve Oliver said, noting that many schools have gone in the direction of installing metal detectors and other tight security measures to combat threats.  “We want to go much more toward teachers and counselors knowing what’s going on rather than that direction.”
Holland said counselors and principals play just as large of role in security and safety as the school resource officers. Many times the students have an idea of how their peers are doing and could identify a potentially threatening situation before it happens.
“The kids have an idea of a lot of this,” Board member Carey Baldwin said. “I think just listening to the kids is a big part of it.”
The board asked Holland to add a security plan update to regular agendas on a semi-annual basis, which will allow the district to regularly be discussing safety and new ways to ensure the security of the students of the district.
“I think it’s really important to discuss this and keep this in mind,” Oliver said.