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Article updated: 1/30/2013 6:05 PM

Cary-Grove says gunfire drill went smoothly

By Elena Ferrarin

A "lockdown" drill Wednesday at Cary-Grove High School that included simulated gun shots -- an element that had drawn criticism from some parents -- went smoothly, district officials said.

The drill took place at about 9 a.m. and lasted no more than 20 minutes, said Jeff Puma, director of communications for Community High School District 155.

Two school deans each fired one shot from a starter's gun at each end of the building, so all students could hear at least one shot, Puma said. District officials said it was important students learn what a gun sounds like, to better react in emergencies.

"We couldn't have asked for our kids to be more engaged in it. They took it seriously, they immediately followed protocol, along with our staff," Puma said.

What made an impression on teacher Devin Hester, weren't the simulated gun shots but staring at his students after he locked his classroom's door and drew the shades.

"It did feel a little more serious with (students) being there," said Puma, who had taken part in staff-only drills before that.

Hester said his students didn't seem too fazed by the experience.

"Honestly, there wasn't a lot of conversation in class about the firing of the gun," he said.

"One of the times, the gun fired 20 feet from my classroom. The first shot was distant, the second very loud. Even after that, the one comment was, 'That was loud.'"

Puma said he was not aware of any students who needed to speak with social workers after the drill.

Students with special needs were given additional "prep time" before the drill took place to get used to the idea, Puma said.

Cary Police Chief Steve Casstevens also the drill went well. "We really just act in a supporting role," he said.

Parent Kassy Pinter had some reservations when she first found out about the drill. On Wednesday, she was reassured to learn it was conducted in a very controlled manner, she said.

Her 16-year-old son told her the drill "was no big deal," she said.

Still, Pinter said she's ambivalent about the concept.

"I'm appreciative of the school district and the high school for their efforts because if, heaven forbid, there was ever an actual school shooting, we'd all be pointing fingers and blaming the high school and the school districts for not doing more to prepare the students," she said.

However, "I don't really know that there's anything that can prepare anybody if that were to happen," she said.

Parent Michael Gregoire agreed.

"I don't know if it was necessary, if there needed to be a (starter's) gun discharged, but as long as it's supervised and done in a reasonable manner, it's probably not going to affect anybody."

The idea of including simulated gun shots came during a meeting between school administrators and the student resource officer at Cary-Grove.

School district officials haven't discussed whether to include simulated gun shots in future code red drills, Puma said.

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