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Parents respond to CHCCS crisis prevention measures, secure mode

Photos courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Students and staff at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools went into "secure mode" twice within the first three weeks of the new school year.  

They were required to remain inside locked buildings due to reports of armed and dangerous individuals on UNC’s campus.

CHCCS safe schools director Tracy Holloway said the safety department has received positive feedback from teachers and administrators about how they handled both emergency situations.

He said teachers were better prepared for how to carry out the second secure mode procedure on Sept. 13 and that the school day was minimally interrupted.

“They were able to go about their day without even knowing or thinking about the tragedy that was happening outside of school,” Holloway said. “So from our point of view, the secure mode was a success in both incidents.”

When schools enter secure mode, Holloway said a message over the intercom informs students and staff. Staff must bring everyone inside and lock the doors, but instruction may continue as usual. Secure mode remains in place until schools receive the all-clear from the district's safety office, Holloway said.

Vickie Feaster Fornville, a Chapel Hill resident and the parent of a student at Chapel Hill High School, said knowing her daughter was in secure mode made her feel reassured during both incidents.

“The kids were safe at that time, and they would remain in secure mode until they got the all-clear from the University, so that made me feel good at that point,” Feaster Fornville said.

Holloway said teachers are trained each summer on the Standard Response Protocol, which dictates how schools respond to crises. Depending on the stage of the crisis, the protocol has five categories of responses: hold, secure, lockdown, evacuate and shelter.

CHCCS went into secure mode during both emergency situations at UNC. Lockdown is used in the event of an immediate threat on campus, and students remain quiet in a hidden and safe location.

In addition to various protocols to respond to crises, CHCCS also has crisis prevention measures in place. Holloway said officials from multiple departments conduct quarterly safety audits, where they walk through school campuses to check for various safety concerns, such as working locks on doors.

There are also security cameras monitored by each school, which Holloway said act as a deterrent for crime. The district's safety office has access to all security camera coverage. All playgrounds also have full camera coverage and are fenced-in, Holloway said.

Feaster Fornville said CHCCS does a good job of monitoring who goes in and out of the school buildings, but she said active threat drills would be a good way to practice in the event of an on-campus threat.

"It's something that you don't enjoy doing, but it's something that you need to do," she said.

Feaster Fornville said the second secure mode was more rattling for her daughter than the first, but she said she was impressed with the communication between the school and parents. 

She has no complaints about how the secure mode implementations were handled by CHCCS, she said.

Chapel Hill resident Chandra Lovejoy, the parent of another student at Chapel Hill High School, said while safety measures can prevent harm, they can also cause anxiety for many students.

She said the need for crisis prevention measures has caused her ninth grade son to question if school is a safe place to be. 

“The part that breaks my heart is just their experience of school being a potentially dangerous place, which I wish that it wasn't something they felt,” Lovejoy said.

Implementing additional safety measures may help the school community feel safer, but it feels like "putting a Band-Aid on a broken arm," she said. 

Lovejoy added that she thinks more restrictive gun legislation will ultimately contribute to safer schools.

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“It seems like there's a root cause here that needs to be addressed that Chapel Hill High isn't going to necessarily be able to solve,” she said.


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