Drills aim to prepare Draper teachers, students for the worst

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DRAPER - The Sandy Hook tragedy and other incidents have prompted renewed calls to protect our kids and prepare for the unimaginable.

Willow Springs Elementary School in Draper is one of the Utah schools teaching children and their families what to do if emergency strikes.

Students and faculty participated in a drill Thursday. An announcement over the PA system stopped all talk. Children headed for the wall, hid under desks or covered themselves with coats.

The windows were covered and the doors were locked. Some kids were scared, but most took it in stride.

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Assistant Principal Shawn Walker says the school has not changed its drills since the shootings in Connecticut, but what has changed is the awareness. Students catch on quickly to simple drills, and Willow Springs faculty meets monthly to discuss action plans.

Parents are also involved in the training. Some have expressed concern the drills are becoming too realistic and frightening for the children — something Kiersten Deheer, who has two children at the school, says is taken into consideration.

"We try to honestly answer their questions as they arise," she said. "We try not to overly scare them or make the situation bigger than it needs to be."

Principal Sharyle Karren says most kids accept the new reality pretty easily.

"We have one child in our school who has some anxiety issues, so we make sure we're prepared for that child and let him know ... and have an adult ready to help him," she said.

Parents appreciate the extra caution, although some are fielding more questions about the Sandy Hook tragedy and the fears it has produced.

For the students, the exercise brings excitement and some apprehension.

"I just want to be good at it in case something really happens," said 4th-grader Lily Baird.

Each successful drill represents another step toward preparation and confidence.


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