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Standardized process, kits aim to make reunification process easier and safer

Everyone is familiar with schools conducting drills to keep students safe in a crisis, but there is more to be done than just getting the kids out of the vicinity.

Chaos, fear, and disorganization sum up the aftermath of a school shooting as parents rush to find their children. It’s a scene we all watched play out at Parkland and one that Rick Parfitt, security director of Lee County schools, never wants to happen again.

He has helped the district standardize the reunification process.

“It’s a simple, step-by-step method a school can use in any type of a crisis where students need to be reunified,” Parfitt said.

A fire, gas leak, or active shooter — any crisis where the students need to be evacuated from school.

The goal is that we quickly reunite kids with their parents in an orderly fashion, a fail-proof fashion,” he said.

The “kits” contain all the necessary information for each school.

“One box has 12 binders and each of those binders represents a position or a role in the response or the reunification,” Parfitt said.

North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts assistant principal Kim Molhem has gone through reunification training.

“We have a check-in station, we have a greeter, we have an accountant position, we have reunifiers, we have an attendance coordinator and everybody has their own specific roles to make sure we are following the process to make sure our kids get with their families quickly and safely,” Molhem said.

LINK: Reunification unified commander checklist

That includes making sure the right parents get reunited with the right students. So, communication is key, a job that falls to Rob Spicker.

“As things come in, they’ll be investigated and some will be true and some won’t. But through those official channels, whether it’s the sheriffs’ office, the police department, the fire department or the school district, that’s going to be what we know to be true and what we can confirm to be true to the parents,” said Spicker, the district’s assistant director of media and public information.

Even if the outcome is the worst-case scenario.

“If the student is not there, we can still have the parent go a different route and they would go to a crisis team and the crisis team would handle the information that their child, unfortunately, didn’t make it,” Molhem said.

It’s a horrific situation for any parent, but they are putting this system in place to try and help and protect children.

To sign up for Lee County schools’ emergency alerts and notifications, click here.

Reporter:Rich Kolko
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