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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

Emergency Initiative Aims to Provide Safety Materials for All 25,000 SPS Students

Red Cross Souther Missouri Region Executive Director Debbie Meeds, Natalie Murdock with Foundation for SPS, and Jean Grabeel

As severe weather season heats up, local entities are teaming with Springfield Public Schools to equip every classroom in the district with emergency preparedness kits. KSMU’s Scott Harvey has more.

More than $45,000 was gifted to the Springfield Public Schools Emergency Preparedness Initiative on Thursday during the latest Good Morning, Springfield! session at the American Red Cross Southern Missouri regional headquarters.

Jean Grabeel, SPS manager of student health services, says recent disasters like tornadoes in Joplin and Moore, Oklahoma, as well as this year’s ice storm in Atlanta, wreaked havoc on those school districts. By SPS meeting their $200,000 goal, officials say they’ll be able to supply teacher preparedness kits in every classroom (roughly 2,300 classrooms in over 50 schools), and safety tubs for each of the district’s 25,000 students.

“So we’re asking you to help join us so that we can help improve the safety and security for all of our students. It will also help us to provide for additional training in CPR and first-aid for our staff,” Grabeel said.

Grabeel noted that currently, schools are equipped with what she called “disaster barrels,” that are centrally located to serve multiple classrooms.

“What we want to do now, is look at how can we bring it closer to where the students are. And where’s the best place for that? That’s in the classroom.”

The new lightweight safety tubes that will be distributed to all students in the event of a disaster include a mask, a whistle, a light stick, a water pouch, and an emergency blanket.

Superintendent Dr. Norm Ridder also commented on other safety initiatives at the district. That includes the installation of at least one secure entrance feature at each school by this fall. The device is equipped with a live-feed camera and intercom system which, when a button is pushed, notifies an official if it’s safe to release the magnetic door lock to allow a visitor inside.   

Ridder also says students at SPS, in the event of a dangerous intruder, are being taught to run, rather than shelter in place. It’s a program called ALICE, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and evacuate, and is being taught at other schools such as Drury.

Thursday’s $45,250 gift to the SPS Emergency Preparedness Initiative is made up of $25,250 from the Red Cross, and $20,000 from the Foundation for Springfield Public Schools.

For information on how to donate, contact the Foundation for Springfield Public Schools at 417-523-0144 or go to and designate your donation as “SPS Emergency Preparedness Initiative.”

Scott joined KSMU in November 2012. He had previously served five years as news director for KETR-FM, the public radio station in Commerce, Texas. A graduate of Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Scott enjoys producing human-interest stories, among other pieces that educate and engage the community. When not at work, he’s often taking part in outdoor activities, exploring new areas and restaurants, or staying up-to-date with the latest news and information. Scott was born and raised in Shenandoah, Iowa.