An unscheduled emergency “lockdown” drill went perfectly early Monday afternoon at Joshua Cowell School, according to safety personnel and Principal Bonnie Bennett.
The 1 p.m. surprise drill came on the heels of another drill several days earlier at the elementary school on Pestana Avenue that caused concern for officials when one class appeared not to take the event seriously. It was the intent of administrators, safety officers, and their advisor to see that attitudes had changed since last week. The drill will also be used in the designing of next year’s school safety plan.
When students were allowed to leave their classrooms after the “all clear” alarm was sounded they ran up to both officers to give them “high five” hand slaps.
Former Manteca police chief and advisor for the lockdown event, Charlie Halford, said he witnessed that as soon as the signal of the lockdown was activated the children ran to the nearest open door for their safety – not necessarily to their own classroom.
Manteca Police safety officer Sam Gallego checked doors and windows with his partner Steve Harris and the Joshua Cowell program director Suzette Anastasio throughout the campus. Listening at the classroom doors, Gallego reported, “You could hear a pin drop, it was so quiet in there.”
While Halford echoed the reports of his team, he said he was more confident in the security of the permanent class room buildings than of the portable classrooms.
“With the steel doors and steel door frames, you can’t get in,” he said.
The portable classroom now have an added device on their doors where teachers no longer have to lock their doors from the outside once their children are safe inside.
Each room has a landline telephone with a 911 connection and a public address system capable of alerting the entire campus in case of a serious event occurring in their area of the campus. Larger metropolitan areas are reporting lockdown situations every day, it was noted.
The safety lockdown drills are designed to prepare school staffs for any dangerous event happening on or near the campus including a possible police pursuit on the nearby streets or someone coming onto the school grounds with a weapon.
The drill is coordinated by the California Safe School that currently oversees the protection of 100 schools in the region under the direction of Rex Osborn. More than 30 of those schools are in the Manteca Unified School District.
Osborn said that each school site is unique in itself. Other working safety officers in Manteca are former Manteca Police Sergeant Ralph Colin and retired Sheriff’s Lt. Chris Stevens.
“As principal this is a tremendous asset to have these people come into our school,” Bennett said at the conclusion of the drill.
More information on California Safe School is available at its website CaliforniaSafeSchools.com.