With college students returning to campus next week and its new charter school opening last Thursday, members of Santa Fe College’s Emergency Management Team met Tuesday for a tabletop safety training exercise.
The meeting took place at the SF Police Department building with SF College Police Chief Ed Book and Associate VP for Information Technology Bill Penney facilitating the event.
“We try to do at least one tabletop exercise per year for some sort of incident,” said Penney, who is also the emergency management co-chair. “This particular one is threats, active shooters, that was the genre. We’ve done fire, we’ve done chemicals in the past, but this year, we chose this one in particular because we’re opening the new charter school.”
On Thursday, classes started for the new Academy of Science and Technology charter school at SF – a collaboration between the college and Alachua County Public Schools – where 75 students high school students are enrolled.
“We want to make sure that our college staff, who are also charged with the emergency management for the charter school, understand the nuances between having a high school and our college students,” Penney said.
Unlike the SF college students, who have access to the entire campus, the charter school students are in a closed building.
“We’re a pretty open campus,” Penney said. “You can come and go into any building, but the high school is restricted. You can’t just walk in; you have to be checked in. So, we need to know the differences.”
He also pointed out the age differences with the new charter school and college students.
“We’re used to having teenagers ages 17, 18, 19,” he said. “These are literally children (at the charter school), some 13, 14. So there’s a little bit of a nuance there and how we want to deal with them in the communication of a threat. We want to make sure we’re prepared as we move forward.”
Penney said SF expects up to 13,000 college students to return on Aug. 21 and said Tuesday’s trainings are helpful in allowing the emergency management team to assemble since each member works at different locations throughout the campus.
“Represented here are folks from other centers and other campuses,” Penney said. “We all get to come together and work as a team, at least for a couple hours, so that we can better know each other if something did happen.”