Parents concerned over SSC lockdown notification procedure

School locked down Sept. 25 due to unfounded threat


STERLING — The Standish-Sterling Central school district is facing criticism from some parents after Sterling Elementary went into lockdown last Tuesday, Sept. 25, upon receiving a phone call that caused the administration concern.

At around 2 p.m. last Tuesday, the Arenac County Sheriff's Department was called to the elementary school due to an alleged threat the district had received, Undersheriff Don McIntyre said, adding that the school entered lockdown procedure shortly after receiving the threat.

“The sheriff's department responded with multiple officers into our area’s schools until the threat could be investigated,” McIntyre said. “Upon the sheriff's office investigating the threat that came out, it was determined that there was no credible threat shortly before dismissal time.”

McIntyre said he was unable to comment on the nature of the threat due to concerns over privacy

The school typically dismisses students at around 2:45 p.m., but because of the lockdown, students whose parents had come to pick them up were escorted to their parents by police officers as a safety precaution while other students were held in the school, SSC Superintendent Darren Kroczaleski said. Once students with parents there were handled, the remainder were escorted by police to their corresponding school buses, causing the transportation system to be delayed by 15-25 minutes, he said.

“We weren't going to release the rest of the students until it was done in a systematic, emergency protocol way,” Kroczaleski said. “We want to make sure we are doing it in a safe manner. We want to take care of the students’ safety; that is our utmost concern and that’s what we are focused on, and it does take a little longer time to do that.”

At this point, however, parents had yet to be informed of the situation, according to Erica Flaherty, a parent of two students enrolled in SSC, who said the lockdown caused confusion and delay when she picked up her children.

For the sake of convenience, Flaherty’s youngest child who attends Sterling Elementary typically takes a shuttle after school to Standish-Sterling Central Elementary where her oldest child is enrolled, she said.

But when she went to pick up her kids, her youngest was nowhere to be found.

Flaherty said she and other parents who were also waiting for their children were unaware that a lockdown had occurred, and as a result they were concerned when the shuttle from Sterling Elementary had yet to arrive.

“I don't expect the teachers to call me in the middle of a lockdown, that’s not what I expect to happen, and obviously I want the main focus to be keeping my kids safe,” Flaherty said. “I was just very dissatisfied with the communication with the parents. I don't think it’s fair that they are supposed to be in charge of our kids and they can’t inform us of what’s going on.”

There were also several complaints on the school’s Facebook page from parents, some of whom also contacted the Independent to voice their concerns.

The district’s priority in a time of crisis is the safety of the students, staff and faculty, Kroczaleski said, adding that once the situation is no longer active, that is when notification will be sent out.

However, Kroczaleski said because of some issues with the district’s internet connection and a glitch in the call system itself, an automated call that had been sent out was delayed by a couple of hours and, for some parents, was fragmented, staticky or not received altogether. He said the district is looking into that issue.

“We are concerned about that because that shouldn't happen,” Kroczaleski said. “We should be able to do that and that is something we have to work out.”


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