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Local

App makes crisis management easier for schools

Gayle Isaac, the director of business services for the Newton Community School District, listens during a 
meeting of the NCSD board. Last year Isaac decided to adopt a new app that will make it easier for 
teachers to communicate during a crisis event, but the roll out process has been slow.
Gayle Isaac, the director of business services for the Newton Community School District, listens during a meeting of the NCSD board. Last year Isaac decided to adopt a new app that will make it easier for teachers to communicate during a crisis event, but the roll out process has been slow.

Administrators at the Newton Community School district are working on rolling a new app that will make it easier for teachers to communicate with administrators and track students in the event of an emergency. With recent threats prompting closures at Iowa schools, parents are more concerned than ever about the safety of their children. Rumors spread quickly across social media, and it’s critical that parents are able to receive updates about their children in the event of a crisis.

Gayle Isaac, the director of business services for the NCSD, said the app, called Crisis Go, will offer more communication capability, and make it easier for teachers to manage crisis situations. The app, which is available for both phones and tablets, contains a classroom roster that each teacher is able to view. During a fire drill, teachers can take attendance using the app, which immediately generates a report sent to administrators.

“The old days of taking a binder and ruffling through paperwork, that’s gone,” Isaac said.

NCSD administrators made the decision to go forward with the app last spring, and Isaac said after completing the initial training sessions with administrative staff building principals were trained, and expected to train their staffs as well. Thomas Jefferson principal Trisca Mick said implementation at her school has been slow, and only a handful of teachers have been trained so far. To get more comfortable with the app she’s completed a second round of training.

“This is something that we’re going to use, but most of my staff hasn’t been trained yet,” Mick said. “It’s hard to get a decent chunk of time to sit down and do this.”

Mick has asked all of her staff members to download the app so they’ll have an opportunity to better understand its functions. She’s heard plenty of positive feedback from teachers about the system so far, and she’s eager to get her staff fully trained.

In addition to the Crisis Go app, NCSD staff members have implemented a number of other safety features across the district. Isaac noted the doors have been locked at all buildings since 2012, and a video call button is used for entry. The system, which is centrally controlled has customizable settings which give administrators the option to quickly lock down buildings in the event of an emergency.

All staff members at NCSD also receive ALICE training as well. This program, designed to teach staff members how to respond in the event of an active shooter, is a partnership between the district and local law enforcement. Officers from the Newton Police Department and the Jasper County Sheriff’s office run teachers through simulated crisis drills, which Isaacs said prepares teachers for any emergency.

“We try to give them real-life situations, we have a gun that shoots blanks, we show them what to do if an intruder tries to force their way into the classroom, and to help them decide if they need to exit or shelter in place,” Isaac said.

Mick said she’d like to see the district step up its training sessions to include students as well. At her previous school district, administrators practiced lockdown drills with students, and Mick believes students would benefit from that experience.

“When it really happens you need to know what to do,” Mick said.

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or ddolmage@newtondailynews.com

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