School soft lockdown

A Mahomet Police Department vehicle is stationed outside Lincoln Trail Elementary School during the soft lockdown on April 18, 2019. The soft lockdown also involved Mahomet-Seymour Junior High School.

MAHOMET — Mahomet-Seymour school district leaders will evaluate how the situation was handled April 18 after a threat made related to a domestic situation led them, in conjunction with police, to put two buildings on “soft lockdown” for a while “out of an abundance of caution,” according to Superintendent Lindsey Hall.

But Hall said the procedure, which was initiated just before 1 p.m. and ended in time for normal dismissal of classes that Thursday, served its purpose.

“I think it went really, really well,” she said this week. “You always learn things. I am always open to doing a better job. There’s never going to be a situation that is perfect.”

The declaration by the district administration of a soft lockdown prompted increased police presence at Lincoln Trail Elementary School and Mahomet-Seymour Junior High School.

Hall tweeted April 18: “At approx 12:55 p.m. both Lincoln Trail Elem and M-S Jr. High were put on soft lockdown due to a threat made related to a domestic situation. Mahomet PD is investigating and is present on premises. Parents will be kept updated as more information becomes available.”

In the hour before classes dismissed, one marked Mahomet Police Department vehicle was parked in front of Lincoln Trail. An unmarked law enforcement auto also was in the area. No other police presence was immediately visible outside the two schools, which are within a block of each other on State Street.

Chief Mike Metzler said although the domestic situation that sparked the soft lockdown decision by school officials originated in Champaign County’s jurisdiction, the Mahomet department, of course, was involved in beefing up security for the city’s schools.

“One of the children in the school had been threatened as part of this domestic situation,” Metzler said this week. The safety of all the students in the schools, naturally, was on authorities’ minds, he noted.

Metzler said the person in question related to the reported threats was located and law enforcement authorities soon “felt comfortable that the situation was under control at that time.

“We just stuck around to reassure people that we’re on top of it,” he added.

A “soft lockdown” obviously is not as confining as a full lockdown of schools, Hall explained this week.

“Kids and teachers are not confined to their rooms with the door locked as they would be in a hard lockdown,” she said.

Under the heightened alert of a soft lockdown, children are escorted through hallways, the identification of all parents entering a school is checked at the door before they can be buzzed into the building and all visitors, if any are allowed in, are checked more closely, Hall explained.

In the event of any security issue at Mahomet-Seymour schools, parents are notified by the Skyward system, phone calls, traditional and social media, she said.

“I share what information I can,” Hall said, noting she works closely with police as they handle whatever situation is unfolding.

Limited details are released, however, for obvious reasons: among them, to allow law enforcement personnel to do their jobs without any person who is a potential threat able to easily monitor police. What Hall and other officials are able to tell parents, and when, is dependent on the particular incident or perceived danger, if there is a danger determined to exist.

“It’s going to be really specific to any given situation,” Hall said of the information she is able to release during any school lockdown. “I’m working with law enforcement to very carefully word what it is that is going on and respect the work that they are doing at the same time. They have a job to do.”

Metzler said the Mahomet-Seymour administration works well with his department.

“We have very good working relationships. We were all talking throughout this,” he said. “The schools are very good to work with. We have a very open line of communication.”

Hall said she has received positive feedback regarding how the district handled the soft lockdown, and the administrative team and school resource officer will debrief to identify possible areas for improvement. She praised administrative assistants in particular, who were inundated with calls from concerned parents as soon as the lockdown was announced.

“Our kids and staff were amazing,” Hall said. “We know that going on a lockdown is a scary thing.”