Students, staff attend ‘Safe and Welcoming Schools Day’


Melissa Ding

On Aug. 30, students and staff participated in Safe and Welcoming Schools Day, which not only helped them acclimate to school culture and settle back into the school year, but also had them follow updated safety drills.

During the day, students participated in multiple activities ranging from lessons covering digital citizenship to proper evacuation skills. Students learned how to reduce their digital footprint and how to respect others online, including only posting pictures of others with their con- sent and treating everyone respectfully.

One of the safety drills not covered during that day was the fire drill, which students had to deal with multiple times before Aug. 30 due to the malfunction of the new fire alarm system. “We have a new fire alarm system that was previously installed. However, old infrastructure is matched up with a new fire alarm system, which is creating some issues and problems,” Assistant Principal Pier Angeli La Place said. “The fire alarm company has been out multiple times, including before school, to try to make it work. The principal has sent an email out to district leadership, so it’s on everybody’s radar that it’s something that has to be attended to.”

La Place wanted to further compliment all the students and staff for following through with evacuation procedures and being cooperative while the administration figures out the issues.

Although many students have expressed frustration with the system, La Place highlighted the importance of treating each instance as if it was an actual fire. “What I can say is that for each one of those an alarm did trigger, showing on the panel that there was a potential fire and whenever that happens, we are legally bound to evacuate the building because we can’t make an assumption,” she said. “The message we want to get out is that we still have to take them very seriously.”

Last year, fire drills oftentimes got very chaotic and it was difficult for administration to properly communicate evacuation procedures. However, various changes have been implemented this year. “There have been some changes in terms of asking students to line up in alphabetical order and asking them to sit, which are procedures that were hopefully explained during the minimum day,” La Place said. “What we found is that our attendance- taking practices could really use improvement. There are over 2,000 students that attend Gunn and 400 adults on campus. That’s 2,400 people we are trying to account for and keep safe out on the field. The longer it takes us to take attendance and the more chaotic [the drill] is, the more unsafe it gets.”

As a result, during the fire drill this year, students have been instructed to walk to the field, find their B period teacher and then sit down in alphabetical order on the track. “The intention is that teachers should be able to spot who is absent without having to shout out as many names, making attendance go much [more quickly],” La Place said. “One of our staff members did use that process and she said that she was able to take attendance in less than a minute. The sitting down is because as people have pointed out, unfortunately there could be a circumstance where I’m using that sound system to say ‘we all have to leave the field’ and now there’s some potential concern. I don’t know that staff have heard that direction if everyone is standing, because our students are the size of adults. If the students are sitting and I have to give directions, I know that it has been heard by staff members and adults that can help the students stay safe if I start seeing just those people move.”

Students also have to deal with the presence of the new building, which had been under construction up until the end of last year. During the Run, Hide, Defend drill, students in the new building were also able to learn how to barricade those doors and the best places to be to stay away from windows. “The new building has added to the places from which people would be evacuating and [ the difficulty of] getting us all out to the field,” La Place said.

The ultimate goal of Safe and Welcoming Schools Day, according to La Place, was to ensure that students remain protected and understand the proper procedures in case of an emergency.