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Madawaska schools receive ALICE training certification

MADAWASKA, Maine — After one year of training and review, the Madawaska School Department is finally certified by the ALICE Training Institute as an ALICE Certified Organization.

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

Getting certified in the ALICE technique required that 75 percent of staff take an online course and attend an in person training session. To be certified, the school also had to include the ALICE policy in its emergency operations plan and conduct drills during the year.

The trek to begin certification began in November of 2017 when Paul Chasse, director of school facilities, safety, operations and maintenance, made a presentation to the school committee about the importance of switching the protocol from lockdown and shelter in place, to the ALICE technique.

“Parents rely on us to do everything in our power to keep their children safe and the Madawaska School Department is determined to do our best to keep our students and staff safe,” said Superintendent Gisele Dionne.

In March, Dionne met with a representative from the National ALICE Headquarters to discuss the advantage of being certified. After she was told that the ALICE trainers were held highly accountable and that there was a standard across the board for how to handle active shooter situations, and that the process was “effective, consistent, and trackable,” Dionne jumped on board.

Without certification, Dionne said some schools in other parts of the country had “rogue trainers who would hold unannounced drills” that were not in alignment with ALICE protocol, resulting in lawsuits.

By April, the school committee approved Madawaska Police Lt. Jamie Pelletier as the school resource officer and Dionne signed a contract with ALICE. Training for teachers and staff started in May. In September, the Madawaska School Department held an info session for parents to teach them about the ALICE strategies and inform them about the student training that took place less than a month later.

The student training incorporated age appropriate instruction, including a certified ALICE book which was read to elementary school students.

Chasse said, as far as he knows, the Madawaska School Department is the only school in The County to be officially certified.

Other measures 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 blackout. Madawaska Elementary School also has been designated the official Red Cross center for the town if there is ever a need.

“Even though we have invested in making our facilities safe and secure, and even though we have now completed all steps for ALICE certification, we hope our students never experience a real event and that we never have to use the training we have received,” Dionne said. “We are also blessed to have trained officers locally, in the MPD that are ALICE certified.”

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