A handful of Fairbanks schools have been on high security alert in the last two days due to two separate incidents.
An armed standoff early Tuesday disrupted the morning commute for residents of west Fairbanks. The incident also rerouted more than 20 school buses. Karen Gaborik is the School District Interim Superintendent. She says at least 140 kids were late to morning classes.
“That’s a fair number of students coming late to school,” she says. “We also had staff who got stuck in traffic as well.”
Gaborik says other staff were assigned to cover classes for teachers who weren’t able to arrive on time. She also placed two elementary schools in close proximity to the stand-off in “secured building mode.”
“That means the exterior doors are locked and we won’t have any outside activity, so now recess. It’s a monitored access to the building,” says Gaborik.
It was the second time in as many days that Gaborik had to partially close down activity at schools in the district. On Monday, a threatening message sent through twitter raised concerns among administrators and law enforcement.
“A community member let the principal at West Valley High school know there had been a vague threat on Twitter so he called the Alaska State Troopers,” she explains. “And because there was a threat, West Valley went into ‘Sit tight mode,’ which is a more secure situation so kids stay in classes.”
Ultimately, five schools were placed “sit tight mode.” Gaborik, who attended both elementary and high school in Fairbanks, acknowledges that situations like those over the last few days have become more common among public schools, but she says personnel practice procedures to handle them regularly.
“I think it gives us the opportunity to have a predictable response to a situation,” says Gaborik.
“We can use the phrase with principals ‘I need you to secure the building’ and principals know what that means and staff knows what that means and we’ve continued to work with parents and students around what those things mean.”
Classes and after school activities at schools affected by both incidents have since returned to a normal schedule.