Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools staff will learn various ways to keep students safe on May 13.

Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools staff will learn various ways to keep students safe on May 13.

The Gahanna-Jefferson Board of Education approved a waiver request Feb. 14 through the Ohio Department of Education to use a 2012-13 instructional day for staff training concerning safety issues.

Scott Schmidt, executive director of business and school improvement, said the district will be partnering with Gahanna police and mental health professionals that day.

"We'll discuss what signs to look for, what help is available and best practices to avoid things," he said.

Although details are yet to be decided, Schmidt said, the district envisions about six different break-out sessions that staff will rotate through.

The training will include teaching staff, bus drivers, cooks and custodians.

He said staff will be at their home buildings half of the day to work with police, then personnel from multiple schools may join for additional sessions.

Schmidt said the schools have already been working with Gahanna police using Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate (ALICE) procedures.

They will be refreshed about that philosophy and protocols, he said.

Police Lt. Dan Williams said he was trained for ALICE about five years ago.

In elementary schools, he said, the philosophy of "flight and fight" is better than freezing to become a stagnant target for a gunman.

Superintendent Francis Scruci said the safety training is just one component of the district's safety plan.

He said there's the physical component that includes buzzers and panic alarms at buildings. "There are also procedures and constantly working with the police department and mental health services," he added.

While the issue of guns became a debated topic about safety during Scruci's Feb. 7 Straight Talk, he said, the real issue is getting mental health services to those who need them.

"I'll be coming to the board with a recommendation to meet those needs," he said.

Middle School East Principal Brad Barboza reported to the board that his building is continuing to conduct safety drills.

"We try to have them be more realistic," he said. "For our next drill, we'll have a police officer dressed in civilian clothes. He'll come in with no sign or badge."

Barboza said the civilian will linger around the building and see how many times staff confronts him.

"After we do that 5 or 10 minutes, the police officer will have a teacher start an inside threat lockdown drill."

Royal Manor Elementary Principal Rick Oxley said school safety also remains a primary concern at his building.

"We've had a parent meeting and staff meetings," he said. "We've been doing scenario-based practice drills."

In addition to a recommendation for personnel to meet mental health needs, Scruci said, he will bring a recommendation next month for more instructional coaches.

He said the recommendation will be part of a district restructuring plan.

"As a district we've plateaued because we don't have enough help in the classroom," Scruci said. "The most important thing we need is instructional coaches. I'll recommend an increase in instructional coaches next month. We'll focus on raising standards for the district."