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Emergency backpacks

Members of the Migrant Parent Advisory Committee and Rupert Elementary School teachers assemble emergency backpacks.

RUPERT — Minidoka County School District has increased security at the district’s schools by supplying all teachers and building administrator with two-way radios and emergency response backpacks.

Staff was also given training on how to use them.

The district purchased 300 emergency response backpacks and 240 radios, Michele Widmier, district school improvement director, said.

The radios cost $18,000 and the backpacks cost about $2,300. Both were paid for with state Safe and Drug Free Schools funds, Widmier said.

“At Minico High School we are excited to have radios in the hands of every teacher,” Principal Josh Aston said in a press release. “We have a very large, spread-out campus and the radios will allow us to be in communication with all of our teachers and students in case of an emergency.”

The radios are high-quality and programmed to contact police and fire departments directly to make response time quicker in emergency situations.

“Staff can communicate anytime with admin and other staff. It really helps from the safety aspect,” Kelly Arritt, Mt. Harrison Junior/Senior High School principal, said. “This can be done extremely quickly, with no dialing. Staff will carry radios with them all day long. We have trained staff to use them for emergency purposes only.”

Widmier said the red backpacks contain a variety of household items and each one has a first aid kit.

Other items include toilet paper so if a lockdown occurs the staff can create a makeshift toilet out of a trash can and other items like sanitary pads and tampons that can be used to stop bleeding, garbage bags, duct tape and rubber gloves.

Each of the items can be used for multiple purposes.

“Part of the training that we’ve conducted included when to use the items,” Widmier said.

If a student put their hand through a window, using the kit would be appropriate, she said. But, if a child has a minor cut, they should be sent to the office for medical attention instead.

On the front of each backpack is a list of items in the kit so the staff can take stock each fall to make sure it is replenished when items are used.

“One of the things we are striving for is having consistency and uniformity across the classrooms,” Widmier said.

Part of accomplishing that goal will include ongoing training for new staff members.

After a Parkland, Florida, shooting last year set off a series of online threats directed at Mini-Cassia schools, schools in both districts began taking more preemptive measures to keep students safe. The threats prompted increased conversations on the topic at schools and at the district and the state level.

The district has taken a proactive approach to safety this year to ensure the schools and students in them are safe.

As a result, the district has focused on safety this year to ensure that the schools and the students that attend them are safe.

The radios and backpacks are in addition to a new Raptor Visitor Management system installed at each building this fall.

Colleen Madrigal, teacher and building safety coordinator at Heyburn Elementary School said two-way communication at any given time of the day is critical for safety and everyday function within the schools. These radios function without internet or electricity.

“I often wonder how we got along without them,” she said.

Madrigal said the staff at the school didn’t question using them at all but just started carrying the radios and moving forward.

“I’d say it’s a sign of the times,” she said.

The radios are useful during bus loading times and provide accountability within seconds.

“We know that we can rapidly be in touch should an emergency ever arise. Our staff has been so appreciative of the increased layer of protection these radios have provided our staff,” Dyann Blood, principal at the Total Learning Center said.

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