RCMP officers work outside a crime scene in Penticton where four people were killed in a shooting spree that rocked the city Monday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett)

Schools, community centres wait behind closed doors during Penticton shootings

Safety procedures functioned smoothly during fatal shooting

There were no students at Queen’s Park Elementary during the April 15 shooting spree, but that didn’t mean there was no concern at the school.

It was a professional development day, which meant the students were off, but teachers and other staff were around.

READ MORE: Four dead, one in custody following Penticton shooting spree

“We have to make sure our staff are safe as well,” said Wendy Hyer, superintendent for the Okanagan Skaha School District (SD67).

Hyer explained the school went into “hold and secure” where staff and students are kept in the school, out of harm’s way.

“There’s no real threat to students, but we want to secure the building and keep everyone inside to keep them safe or keep them out of an area that the RCMP have asked they stay away from.

‘You hold the children, the staff in the school, secure the building and just keep a watchful eye.”

A more direct threat to students would have triggered a lockdown, where all the doors are locked, including classroom doors. That would be if someone was trying to get into the building with the intention of harming children.

There might not have been students at the elementary school, but joust across Power Street, the Penticton Community Centre was having a busy day.

“They (RCMP) called us and asked us to put the building on lockdown, which we did immediately,” said Bregje Kozak, recreation and culture director for the City of Penticton, who was in the community centre at the time.

She said the centre was well-staffed that day to take care of everything that was going on, which included a Kiwanis dance festival, a preschool group along with people making use of the pool and other facilities.

Kozak said it only took about five minutes to secure the multiple entrances and exits to the building.

“Between all of our facility stuff, recreation and aquatic staff that that weren’t on the deck still lifeguarding, we all just jumped into action,” said Kozak. “I was kind of directing, making sure that each exit was was an entrance point was locked and controlled.

That was before, I think, other people had even been notified of the incident.”

After that, Kozak said they kept people in the building until the all clear was given, except in a few circumstances, like parents coming to pick up their children from the preschool.

We had one of my staff, at that entrance point that knew the parents and allowed those people into the building to sit with the kids because these are three- and four-year-old children,” said Kozak. “But then we didn’t let them out again.”

Kozak said these type of incidents always raise the need for looking at city procedures.

Kozak said they didn’t announce the lockdown, because they didn’t want to alarm people using the pool and other facilities.

“We were letting people know as they were trying to leave the building. Shortly thereafter, people started seeing things on social media … and started figuring things out for themselves. But we didn’t want to warn the entire building because it was such a busy building yesterday.”

“Improvements are always being looked at. So this is something that we’re going to look at within the community centre and probably at a higher level within the organization as well to make sure that we are doing proper drills for these sorts of things.”

Hyer said schools in the district practice lockdown protocols, just like fire drills and other safety events. Besides lockdown and the hold and secure plans, they also have direct evacuation plans to get kids out in the case of a gas leak or other immediate dangers.


Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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