Locked Down: New England Public School halts traffic, utilizes mass messaging system to alert school community

On Wednesday, Oct. 29, New England Public School went on lockdown at the recommendation of the Hettinger County Sheriff’s office.

(Photo) New England Public School from the main entrance. The school went on lockdown as a precautionary measure at the recommendation of the Hettinger County Sheriff's office.
(Photo) New England Public School from the main entrance. The school went on lockdown as a precautionary measure at the recommendation of the Hettinger County Sheriff’s office.

By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

On Wednesday, Oct. 29, New England Public School went on lockdown at the recommendation of the Hettinger County Sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office was notified of a situation in the town of New England at 11:30 a.m. and after some facts had been gathered they decided to approach the school with the recommendation.

The Game and Fish department were the first to the scene and vehicles could be seen around town during the ordeal.

Details of the incident have not been disclosed due to the ongoing investigation, but the authorities thought it was best to take precautionary measures.

Hettinger County Sheriff Sarah Warner was in the process of sending out a reverse 911 call to the residents of the town before the situation was resolved.

The sheriff’s office sent out a similar call to the residents when two inmates escaped last month from the Dakota Women’s Correctional Rehab Center.

According to New England School Superintendent Kelly Koppinger, the school was contacted at 1:15 and then it was announced over the intercom system that as a precautionary measure the school would be going on lockdown.

“It was a precautionary measure that we took to take and insure that our students were safe in our building,” Koppinger said.

Koppinger also added that the school wasn’t in complete lockdown. Though students and faculty were able to move around inside the building, the administration was not allowing entrance or exit from the building.

The lockdown only lasted 30 minutes and according to Koppinger, the school had no major disruptions and the lockdown lift was announced over the intercom system.

To alert parents, guardians and other family of the situation, the school utilized Power Announcement.

The message stated: “As directed by the Sheriff’s Department, we are going into a Lock Down environment. Religion will be cancelled for today.”

Power Announcement is a tool that the school can use to mass message.

“We can probably hit our 200 families within a matter of minutes with various media,” Koppinger said.

The system is a mass email, text messaging and phone calling system to communicate with parents, guardians and school community very quick.

Though usually used for more casual communication, Power Announcement allowed the school to make everyone aware of the situation.

The luxury of Power Announcement comes from its versatility for the consumers. The program allows parents/guardians to dictate how they receive messages. They can set emergency alerts to all forms of media, while limiting casual announcements to only email if they desire. The school can label it accordingly before they press the send button.

The different categories include emergencies, student bulletins, attendance notifications, cancellations, general announcements, messages from teachers and messages from coaches.

“Parents can take and move these messages to the media that they would like to take and receive them in,” Koppinger said. “They have complete control over how they want those messages to be received.”

The system is nice to alert family especially in the event of weather related issues. Koppinger said that even though the community is alerted via the Power Announcement system, questions and concerns still arrive at the school office for the faculty to answer and confirm.

Having said that, the school does enjoy the luxury of having a mass communication system with the school community for situations like the one faced on Oct. 29.

“There’s a lot better communication, lots better now,” said Julie Opdahl, staff member of New England Public School. “It’s a wonderful tool.”

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