"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1
Once, I was walking behind a group of Kindergarteners as they were passing by one of the fire alarms located in the 200 wing when I overheard one little boy say to another, "No one is allowed to pull that handle!" Immediately, the other little boy quickly rebutted, "No one except Mrs. Palka!" As I heard this, I just smiled hearing this was one of my claims to fame as the principal. However, the truth of the matter is that every time that we rehearse this drill throughout the seven annually scheduled practice sessions, pulling the alarm is actually one of my jobs!
So imagine my shock a few years ago when I was in a meeting with another staff member inside my office and the fire alarm went off! Knowing that the one who always schedules and always pulls the alarm was sitting in the room, the other staff member and I shared a brief stare of shock with each other... and then immediately took off running to our assigned responsibilities. As soon as I entered the hallway, my eyes were instantly relieved as I saw our staff and students calmly and efficiently exiting the building just like we always practiced.
Not knowing what was going on, I followed my typical routine of ensuring everyone was out of the building. As I rounded the corner, another staff member came running toward me confessing, "I'm so sorry! I was heating up some pizzas for my class in the oven. Something had spilled in the oven and the smoke set off the alarm!"
Since I had not called the alarm company to request our system be put in test mode, the Walled Lake Fire Department had to come and check out the building and give us the all clear before anyone could re-enter the building, much to the embarrassment of the guilty staff member. Jokingly, we did offer the firemen some pizza once they had finished their investigation. However, one large benefit from this impromptu fire drill was the validation that all of our practice had truly paid off.
At St. Matthew Lutheran School, your child's safety is one of our paramount responsibilities. We have safety procedures in place, and we frequently practice these procedures so that they become automatic in the event of a true emergency.
Last Friday was another impromptu opportunity for us to see how effectively our protocol works. Please know that our building is always secure during the school day, but we have different levels of security for different situations. If there is a threat in the community, our students will not leave the school building. If there is a threat inside our building, children will not leave their classrooms and will follow their established lock down procedures. Through all of this, I am in close communication with our staff, and we will communicate only what is absolutely necessary to our students in order to keep a calm environment.
When situations warrant, I will send parent communication as quickly as I am able to do so. Assessing the situation and attending to the immediate student needs are my first responsibilities. Once I am aware of the elements of the situation and have an opportunity to do so, I will inform parents. Currently, our most effective way to communicate is through our Constant Contact email system. However, within the next few weeks, we will be able to send out mass text messages through our new "Remind" communication tool.
Please realize that in these situations, we need to keep our school telephone lines open to effectively and efficiently communicate with the authorities, so please refrain from calling to check on your children.
Please also know that we also have arrangements with the Walled Lake Bus garage and if we would ever need to evacuate students do to a building situation or emergency, Walled Lake has agreed to send busses over to our school building and transport our students to our St. Matthew Wixom Campus, located at 48380 Pontiac Trail. If this would ever need to occur, you would be immediately notified to pick your child up at our Wixom Campus.
In all situations, we rejoice in knowing that no matter what happens, we have a great God who is always in control and watching over us!
In His love,