Amherst’s Fort River School has brief lockdown

“It was not a situation where anyone’s health or safety was at risk, but one that needed to be addressed,” said Michael Morris, director of evaluation and assessment for the schools. “It took a couple of minutes and then it was resolved.”

The lockdown, in which all students were required to be in their classrooms with doors locked, lasted five minutes, Morris said. During the incident, instruction continued, he said. He declined to give more details, citing student confidentiality.

Morris was speaking for Superintendent Maria Geryk, who was in meetings all day Thursday and not available for comment.

Fort River Assistant Principal Diane Chamberlain sent a note home to families of Fort River students Tuesday telling them that a lockdown occurred at 10:15 a.m. “to address a concern.”

She called it an “internal issue that needed our uninterrupted attention” and added that “faculty and students responded well, with all protocols being followed.”

Chamberlain did not return a phone call from the Gazette on Thursday.

Morris said the term lockdown sounds more ominous than it is. He said it is used as a “first-stage security measure when there is no imminent threat to students.” He said it is the way to deal with a variety of matters in which “a potential problem” makes it necessary to account for all children and adults in the building.

A situation that poses a danger to students prompts a different response called “shelter in place,” he said. In that case, instruction does not continue in classrooms and additional safety measures are taken. He declined to specify what those are for security reasons.

Morris said students at all of the schools in Amherst practiced the lockdown drill in the fall. Anxiety is kept at bay, he believes, by the fact that children are familiar with the procedure and instruction continues while it is happening.

In her note to families, Chamberlain said staff members were available all day Tuesday to handle any student concerns about the incident. She asked parents to contact her if a child had follow-up questions that needed to be addressed.

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