From the Office of the Principal
Village Elementary School
September 12, 2019
Dear Village School Families and Caregivers,
As you may already know, we have adopted some changes to the District’s emergency management plan, specifically implementing a safety program called ALICE. ALICE is a research-based, proactive, options-based, empowering program for responding to a building emergency. ALICE is an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. For years Gorham staff and students have been trained in standard “lockdown” procedures, which required all adults and children to stay put in a locked classroom and huddle away from doors and windows. Sadly, nationwide research has shown that this passive huddling and waiting lockdown practice has often proven less effective at saving lives. Knowing this, in conjunction with the Gorham Police Department, we selected the ALICE model to improve our approach to keep students and staff safer. Throughout the 18-19 school year, our certified instructors in the ALICE approach trained all Gorham School Department staff members.
With regard to classroom messaging to students, as with years past we continue to keep this information developmentally appropriate and low-key. Students know that we regularly conduct emergency lessons for everyone’s safety; including evacuations during a Fire Alarm and locking down during a Lockdown Alert.
For our children, the biggest shift is there is no longer only one response during a Lockdown (moving to a predetermined safe spot in the classroom and staying there). Instead, they now focus on the teacher for specific directions that may include the ‘shelter in place’ option or any number of other responses depending on the situation. Our staff is all trained to respond in a variety of ways, making the decision that will best ensure the safety of the students in their care. In order for these actions to be met with success, our students are being coached to stop, look, listen and follow directions without questions in these variable situations.
Our first emergency lesson using ALICE protocols is scheduled for the week of September 16th. In this lesson the teacher will lead a discussion on what it means to be safe at school, read the book I’m Not Scared, I’m Prepared: I know About ALICE to the class, and highlight that the procedures during an emergency are to stop, look, listen and follow teacher directions without question.
We will continue to conduct lessons throughout the remainder of the year, but as this is the first school-wide emergency lesson with students present, I wanted to let you know in advance. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime with questions.
Brian A. Porter, Ph.D.