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Schools in shock

A rush of emotions came over Judy Haptonstall as she heard the news of Wednesday’s deadly school shooting in Bailey.”I just thought about the horror and the worry and the concern for the people in that situation,” said Haptonstall, superintendent of the Roaring Fork Re-1 School District. “It’s a horrible, horrible situation.”On Wednesday, 53-year-old Duane Morrison took six girls hostage at Platte Canyon High School, sexually assaulting at least some of them, and killing 16-year-old Emily Keyes.According to authorities, Morrison shot Keyes as she tried to run away during a standoff. He then killed himself. Keyes later died at a Denver hospital.”There isn’t much of a defense with somebody who has motives like that,” Haptonstall said. “There isn’t a building in our county that’s impervious to that. All you can do is have systems in place, and we do have crisis plans in place for a variety different scenarios.”After the 1999 Columbine High School shooting that left 15 dead, including the two gunman, Haptonstall said her school district worked with local law enforcement to establish crisis plans.”We’ve established clear lines of communication with local police,” she said. “We are always looking at resource plans, and every year we revisit those.”Bill Nickell, principal of Riverside School in New Castle, said he recently implemented changes to his school’s crisis plan. “We just redesigned our crisis plan this year,” he said. “I discussed the entire crisis plan with students. I’ve talked to the kids this is something I’ve discussed with every class.”Coincidentally, Riverside students ran through a previously planned lock-down drill Thursday.”We planned this clear back in August. We had already rehearsed building evacuations, and what to do if a student is sick, hurt or lost,” Mickell said. “The kids responded well. We had the entire school locked down in 40 seconds.”Crisis plans in schools are vital in protecting students from dangerous and sometimes deadly situations, Nickell said.”I think that schools have an obligation to keep kids safe, but also to allow for freedom of movement that’s conducive to the learning experience,” he said. “You need a real balance there.”Nickell said he was contacted Thursday by a few parents concerned about the school attack in Bailey. And, like Haptonstall, he was saddened to hear the details of the standoff as they unfolded.”I think it’s every parents’ and educators’ worst nightmare,” Nickell said. “It’s a real tragedy we’re supposed to keep our kids safe. Nothing else matters.”Contact April E. Clark: 945-8515, ext. 518aclark@postindependent.com


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