LONDONDERRY —School officials are touting the success of a recent safety drill, but say it's a sad reality for what schools now face in the wake of recent shootings across the nation.
Last week a gun-awareness drill was held in conjunction with Londonderry police and fire departments and the school district.
The staff training added a different aspect to the list of training efforts already in place in the Londonderry schools, with officials saying it was a successful drill, but also a disturbing new norm when it comes to keeping schools and children safe.
Each school had a designated time for the drill, followed by a debriefing session with emergency officials. The purpose was to provide staff with a memory imprint of what an actual gunshot sounds like from various locations around the facility.
Police officers fired four blank rounds in different areas of each building while staff were at their regular work locations. Once they heard the gunfire, strategies were then put in put for making decisions on how staff wanted to react.
District Business Administrator Peter Curro said the gunfire was loud, but in each building the sounds were often a bit different.
"Police used the same gun, the same caliber," Curro said. "I wouldn't say it was exactly the same in each building. But in the end, all were appreciative that we did this."
Staff could also choose not participate in the drill and leave the building for the active threat portion, then rejoin for the followup debriefing session.
Curro said only six staff members opted out of the drill.
"They understood the importance of this," Curro said. "And kudos to police and fire for explaining why we are doing it."
Curro said it’s not the kind of drill the district welcomes, but it’s a valuable and important process to keep safety a top priority.
"I was nervous doing this," Curro said. "I didn't know how people would react."
Kim Carpinone, co-chairman of the Londonderry School District Emergency Operations Committee, said she heard a lot of positive feedback about the drill and how helpful it was to know what gunfire truly sounds like.
"It's good to have that memory imprint," she said.
Resident Bob Slater told the school board everyone did a phenomenal job, but it's not something anyone wants to go through.
"Hopefully, it's something we never have to deal with," he said.
School Superintendent Scott Laliberte said Londonderry is lucky to have such fantastic community partners in the police and fire departments.
"The cooperation with the town was as good as it gets," Laliberte said. "And we appreciate what a difficult situation this was for a lot of teachers. A sufficient number of staff had never heard a live gunshot before."
Laliberte added that it took a lot of commitment and strength to take the risk to hear the gunfire during the drill, even though it may have been uncomfortable.
"As I walked around (that day), every person I talked to said, 'This is going to help me keep our kids safe,'" Laliberte said. "That speaks to the professionalism of our staff."
Londonderry School Board Chairman Nancy Hendricks said unfortunately this type of training is becoming the new normal. And she noted many school districts still aren't dealing with this harsh new reality.
"There are districts in the state not talking about it," she said. "But you have to. It's a sad reality for our culture."