WILMINGTON/TEWKSBURY—Both Wilmington and Tewksbury are moving forward with the implementation of the ALICE program.
ALICE, or Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate, is a program designed to help schools deal with active shooters. It presents options for staff and students and reminds them that they are capable of defending themselves, if the need so arises. It avoids a scripted lockdown procedure.
Wilmington unveiled ALICE to the school community back in March. Last week, they held training for staff and students.
Superintendent Joanne Benton said that it went well.
“Once again, the Wilmington Police Department was very impressed with our faculty and students,” she said. “We have a lot to be proud of!”
They’ll hold their next training session in the spring.
“We will begin to train elementary staff, have a community meeting for elementary parents and then practice this spring at the elementary level,” she said.
Tewksbury High School Safety Officer Kathy McCloud said that they had Lieutenant Scott Sencabaugh of the Wilmington Police Department gave a presentation to the district at the beginning of the year.
“Everyone seemed pretty on-board,” she said.
Last April, ALICE proponents appeared before the Tewksbury School Committee and sought approval, which was granted.
It’s a very long process to get it into the schools,” she said.
McCloud said that she and five others received ALICE instructor certification last month. They’ll then begin sessions with the high school and middle school.
The dates, however, have not yet been determined.
“Wilmington is well-ahead of everybody in this general area,” she said. “[Superintendent John O’Connor] has made it clear that he wants to move forward sooner rather than later.”
In a letter obtained by the Crier, O’Connor wrote: “With additional funding from Town coffers and the Tewksbury Education Foundation, we intend to enhance security measures at all of our schools this year. Enhancements may include additional security cameras, card access readers, and alarm systems.”
McCloud said the district hasn’t received any feedback from parents; they’re still too early in the implementation process. She did note that ALICE is “becoming the norm.”
The old lockdown, she said, made people defenseless.
ALICE says “knowledge is power.”
“They’re training the teachers and students [to realize they have options],” she said.
She also identified Chief Tim Sheehan as a major supporter of the ALICE program.
Districts have adopted ALICE and similar measures in response to school shootings like Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and Columbine after realizing that old safety policies were ineffective in cases of active shooters.
More information is available at responseoptions.com.