Middle School holds reunification drill

School district: In case of real emergency, do not interfere

Officers from Utah Highway Patrol and the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, alongside Grand County Middle School staff, escort middle schoolers from GCMS to the Grand County High School auditorium during a reunification drill May 24. Photo by Carter Pape

On Friday, May 24, Moab first responders and Grand County Middle School conducted a drill simulating how children and parents would be reunified following an emergency situation, such as a lockout.

Mock reunifications took place at the high school, where staff and volunteers accompanied students on their way between the middle school and high school, verified the identities of parents picking up their children and oversaw the logistics of the operation.

GCMS seventh grader Mialee Curtis and her mother Tonya Curtis reunite during the reunification drill.
Photo courtesy of Tonya Curtis

Participating agencies were Moab City Police, the Moab Valley Fire Department, Grand County EMS, and the middle and high schools. Volunteers from Moab Charter School and the Moab Valley Multicultural Center also assisted with the event.

According to Police Chief Bret Edge, roughly 50 families participated. Parents coming to pick up their children were required to bring their ID to the high school gymnasium, where staff and volunteers verified identities, as would be done in a real reunification situation. Identification in a reunification situation would be required to ensure accountability in exchanges of custody from the school district to parents.

During the drill, once a parent’s identification was verified, they were moved to the wrestling room next to the gym, where they were reunified with their child.

Grand County Middle School staff and volunteers from organizations including the Moab Valley Multicultural Center set up at the station for parent identification during the reunification drill. Photo by Carter Pape

The drill was intended to closely simulate how an actual reunification would work. Parents and children used separate bathrooms, at least one grief counselor was present for the drill, and police were present for nearly every step of the drill.

In case of an emergency

The Grand County School District shared advice via a video on how parents should respond to an actual reunification situation. The video was produced by the Adams 14 school district in Commerce City, Colorado.

This video by the Adams 14 school district in Commerce City, Colorado explains the protocol of a reunification.

According to the video, it is important during an emergency situation that parents stay home until the school district is prepared to reunify children with their parents. “In a school emergency situation … the most important contribution you can make to your child’s safety is to stay home,” said a video shared by the school district.

The video explains that staying home allows first responders to control the emergency rather than controlling parents or guardians. The video also explains that the school district will attempt to disseminate information to parents as quickly as possible.

“In some situations, accurate information takes time to verify and share,” the video explains.

Parents may receive information from the school district during an emergency in a variety of ways, including a phone auto-dialer call, a text message from the district, email, a posting on the district website or through local media outlets.

Grand County School District Staff coordinated the reunification drill, wearing badges to denote their various roles. Photo by Carter Pape

Parents are advised not to call or text students during an emergency situation, as staff and students are trained to stay out of sight and quiet in some emergencies, such as lockdowns.

Parents are also advised not to call the school, as that may take staff attention away from controlling the situation.

In case a reunification is necessary, parents may be asked to go to a specified location with their identification and fill out a reunification form. In a case where a parent can’t pick up the child, persons identified as emergency contacts for the child are preferred.

If, in an emergency, a child safely self-evacuates, parents are asked to inform the school district when the child is safe.