This is Part 2 of a two part series on a reunification drill held by the Abilene school district.
A key element in the Abilene school district reunification drill held at Sterl Hall last week is identification.
When parents/guardians arrive at the reunification site, large signs will direct them where to check in. They will need to have photo ID and other necessary identification.
“They’ll go in. They’ll fill out a card with a couple questions. They’ll tell a card checker who they are. The card checker will verify their picture and write it down. That card then goes back to our accountants. They go into our SIS (school information system) and verify that the person is authorized to pick up the child,” said Mike Liby, reunification commander.
Interim Superintendent Gary Nelson said that’s why taking attendance at school is so important.
“We’re going to base it on the last hour, the last minute, the child was in the building. We will know who was absent that day and who was there,” Nelson said. “We have to be sure the right kid goes to the right person.”
Liby said parents/guardians must understand the checkers will be very deliberate.
“If the person who shows up to pick up the student is not authorized, we’ll make efforts to contact the parent/guardian to get it resolved,” Liby said. “But we’re not going to release any student to just anyone who shows up.”
Like medical institutions that are bound by HIPAA, schools are bound by FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
“We can’t release the names of kids or any other information except to the person who is authorized,” Nelson explained.
As parents are being notified, students will be bused to the reunification center, arriving at different times. Although one could hope they would arrive by classes with their teacher, that’s not always the reality.
“We would love to say everyone will be sitting in their classrooms and they are just going to get up, get on a bus and go, but they could be on the playground or if they’re in high school, they could be in a lot of different places so we could have lots of mixed groups or classes coming in on buses,” Liby said.
“We have a whole group of people that has to find the child. The accountants have to know we have the child so we can start getting them to the parents,” Liby added.
Liby or Kim Kohler, who will serve as operations chief during a reunification event, would be in charge at the reunification center, but that doesn’t mean they have to field every question.
“We have operations people and logistics people and they all have roles to play,” Liby said, referring to a flow chart exemplifying the command structure.
Any information to be disseminated to the public will be done through a public information officer. Kylie Lee, the district’s payroll clerk, will take on that role. All information first will be approved by Liby, the superintendent or the assistant superintendent.
Nelson said the district plans to have information available during enrollment explaining how a reunification center would be used if needed.
Liby hopes parents will give some extra thought when it comes to listing people who can pick up their children when designating emergency contacts.
“I’m hoping when we get to enrollment in August that we can explain to people why their emergency contacts are really important to us,” Liby said. “Not only because we need to know because of other things in school, but if we ever have to activate this, we need that information.
“We want people to know we are working on a plan,” Liby added. “It’s a plan we never want to use, but if we ever need to, we have one and we’ve practiced it.”
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