Emergency responders and members of the Mentor Public Schools participate in a large-scale safety drill on June 6. (Prelude Photography)
Providing a safe environment for thousands of students each and every day is a top priority for Mentor Schools.
That dedication led to an event that was almost a year in the planning.
A large-scale safety drill in coordination with Mentor Police, Mentor Fire, the Lake County Emergency Management Agency and other emergency response agencies was based at Mentor High School on June 6, but it involved participation of all the schools in the district.
“Safety is our No. 1 priority in Mentor Schools, and we greatly appreciate our community partners — especially Mentor Police and Mentor Fire — working hard side-by-side with us on these most important initiatives,” Mentor Schools Director of Community Relations Kristen Estes said. “We obviously value the importance of being educators, but providing a safe environment for students is just a fundamental human necessity.”
Superintendent Craig Heath said planning for the event started in September 2022 and was key to provide coordination among the school district and emergency response agencies as well as an opportunity to react to serious situations in the most effective and safest way possible.
“I actually stepped out of the planning meeting with a few others so that we could react in real time to what was happening during the drill,” Heath said. “There were things that were injected into the exercise at various times and various locations that really made us all make changes on the fly.”
Estes said the drill began around 9 a.m. and the first 90 minutes were played out in real time. The drill was then paused and the simulated situation was fast forwarded to later in the day. She added a few students who were handpicked by Mentor High School Principal Jason Crowe participated and some high school teachers also were involved as actors, but there were administrators and staff members from every school in the district involved at some level, including transportation.
With serious situations at schools around the nation as well as recent gun issues at West Geauga High School and Orange High School, Heath said it only heightens the awareness and the need for preparation and coordination.
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“Obviously these situations around the nation and right here locally only brings things to the forefront even more, and we try to learn from them and make sure we are well prepared throughout the school year,” Heath said. “I know the safety of our schools is something the Board of Education takes very seriously and we all work very hard to respond quickly to any scenario.”
Heath said while he knew the importance of the safety drill leading up to it, the actual experience went beyond expectations.
“It was an invaluable overall experience,” Heath said. “To build a relationship with Mentor Police and Mentor Fire and other agencies and to work on a coordinated effort in response to a school emergency is vital. They are experts in their fields of emergency response and we like to think we are experts in our field of dealing with student issues and needs. In the long run it will benefit us all to work together.”