Kansas law will reduce number of safety drills in schools

WICHITA — A new Kansas law will reduce the number of required safety drills in public and private schools only a year after lawmakers mandated crisis drills to prepare students for active shooters and other threats.

Wichita public radio station KMUW reports that the measure recently signed by Gov. Laura Kelly requires nine safety drills each school year. Four drills must be for fires, two for tornadoes and three for crisis lockdowns.

A provision in the state budget approved by lawmakers last year required schools to have 16 safety drills a year, or about one every two weeks. The requirement was for nine crisis drills, four fire drills and three tornado drills.

Some educators and lawmakers said the frequency of emergency exercises added to students’ anxiety and took away from class time.

“Crisis drills take a lit bit more effort. They take a little bit more organization planning, and they probably cause a little bit more disruption,” said Terry Rombeck, spokesman for Andover Public Schools. “It’s a little bit more complicated to do one of those than it is to do, you know, pull the fire drill, and have the kids get outside.”

The Kansas Association of School Boards and state fire marshal’s office supported the change.

Rombeck says the Andover district uses the crisis drills to prepare students for a variety of possible emergency situations beyond active shooters.

“What if a staff member fell ill in the hallway and we needed to keep kids in the classrooms while EMS dealt with them? What if there was a chemical spill and we needed to keep kids away from that? What if something happened in the neighborhood where we couldn’t go outside for recess?” he said. “It’s all sorts of different things that could happen, so we want to be prepared for all those situations.”


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