On Thursday afternoon, students in Mrs. Ouellette’s first grade classroom were doing lessons on their iPads….hard to believe it was just about a year ago when a gunman walked into an elementary school just like Fort Kent Elementary School and killed twenty students and six staff members.
Tim Doak: “I automatically thought back to my own district and where my kids were..I was more concerned about Monday morning than I was right there that Friday that it happened, I wanted to make sure that we had something in place on Monday morning when all the kids returned to school.”
And so SAD 27, like many other school districts in the county, state, and country, reviewed and updated their safety plans. Doak says they were already in the process of equipping both Fort Kent elementary and high schools with cameras and locking the outside doors – and after the Sandy Hook tragedy, they put their focus on the outlying schools. Now schools in Eagle Lake, Wallagrass, and St Francis are always locked. And every school in the district now has a camera and call button at the front doors – so no one can just walk in.
“Every parent puts a kid on the school bus to come here and be safe. And it’s our job to hopefully keep them safe,” says Doak.
Doak says they try to have students practice every scenario possible – what if a gunman somehow got in before school? During Lunch? During first period? Every classroom must now be locked, and each door has a shade that could be pulled down if the school were on lockdown.
English Teacher Donald Chouinard says, “it’s empowering and every time I unlock my classroom door, I’m reminded that it’s locked for a reason and we need to be vigilant.”
Fort Kent police patrol the school areas more than they used to – they’re checking the plates of cars in the parking lots that they haven’t seen before. The state police, sheriff’s department, and game wardens all help patrol the three outlying schools – which were not patrolled before.
“It could happen here. We have students here that go out of control sometimes,” says Police Chief Doody Michaud. “It could happen, you never know.”
Tim Doak and other superintendents know that adding these safety measures won’t bring back the 26 lives lost on December 14th. They know that they can prepare all they want, but anything can happen. But they work all the time to make sure students feel as safe as possible when they come to school every day.