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Parents learn about active shooter training in Madawaska schools

MADAWASKA, Maine — Officials with the Madawaska School District met with parents at the high school Tuesday evening to teach them about the ALICE strategies used to prepare teachers and staff in the event of an active shooter situation.  

ALICE, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and evacuate, is a strategic training program designed to equip individuals with the skills they would need to use if ever an active shooter or aggressive intruder entered a school building or appeared on school grounds.

The district is working toward getting certified in the ALICE technique, which requires that 75 percent of staff take an online course and attend an in person training session. The school system held one of those sessions at the end of May To be certified, the district also must include the ALICE policy in its emergency operations plan and conduct drills during the year.

“As a parent of two children in the school system, it is very important to me to stay informed as to what is happening to keep all the children safe,” said Kris Albert, father of two students and one of the 31 parents attending Tuesday’s event.

The session aimed to include parents in the process and prepare them for when their children go through drills of their own, according to Jamie Pelleiter, a Madawaska police lieutenant, and the school system’s school resource officer.

“”Personally I would have liked to see more people attend,” Pelletier said Wednesday. “But the info session went well.”

Parents sat through a powerpoint presentation and lecture followed by a question and answer session. Some parents asked how other law enforcement agencies might be involved and how parents would be alerted should the occasion arise.

The presenters assured those in attendance other law enforcement agencies, including from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol are prepared to and would assist. Officers from local, county, state and federal law enforcement organizations even trained in Madawaska in August to deal with active shooters.

“I think the collaboration between police departments and the school department to keep our kids safe is nothing short of amazing,” Albert said.

The alert part of ALICE would, in the unthinkable event, include the use of the school building’s intercom system, two-way radios between administration and support staff — including custodians, the school resource officer, and other staff who are not teachers — cell phones, and, as a last resort, people verbally communicating where possible.

Most other questions, according to Pelletier, were directed toward school officials concerning their continuing safety efforts, which included hiring Pelletier this year as school resource officer.

Pelletier began working in schools in March as the resource officer and is now considered one of the school department’s most prized safety features. He works mostly at the middle high school during the week.

Aside from being on hand for the safety of students and staff, the lieutenant said his primary function of being in the school building is not as a disciplinarian, but to “help foster positive relations with students and staff.”

“I am here to bridge the gap between law enforcement and today’s youth,” Pelletier said.

Madawaska Police Chief Ross Dubois said he chose Pelletier for the post because of his work ethic.

“He was also chosen for his exemplary ability to communicate with adults and students alike,” Dubois said.

Pelletier said he wanted to take on the job as the school resource officer to help with law related education.

“You can’t just be given this job, you must really want this,” he said. “And I do; I wouldn’t do this job if I didn’t want to.”

Other provisions the school has taken to ensure student and staff safety have involved adding and upgrading cameras, installing video phones at building entrances, using electronic key fobs for entering the building, updating phone and intercom systems, and training members of amateur radio clubs to assist local emergency agencies in the event of a long power outage.

“My priority is student safety, their education comes second,” said Madawaska School Department Superintendent Gisele Dionne at the staff training in May.

The schools will hold the student ALICE training sometime in October, though the date is not yet set.

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