Northampton Press

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Lehigh Elementary 'lockdown' gets good marks

Thursday, March 20, 2014 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Local News

There were some tense moments in Northampton Area School District when Lehigh Elementary School was placed in lockdown while police officials located a man who fled a nearby traffic stop.

But overall, it was business as usual for staff and students inside Lehigh Elementary School along Blue Mountain Drive in Lehigh Township.

"I received a lot of positive comments in regards to the way the staff and the district handled that situation," said NASD Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik.

Kovalchik said he received about 15 emails and phone calls after the incident from district parents, commending the administration and staff.

The Lehigh lockdown went into effect at approximately 10:15 a.m. and was lifted at about 11:45 a.m. March 12.

Ryan Redline, 27, was taken into custody after he fled from his vehicle following a traffic stop. He ran into a wooded area about one mile from Lehigh Elementary, 800 Blue Mountain Drive.

Initially, Redline was reported to have a handgun, but no weapon was found in his possession when he was arrested.

Redline was wanted on a warrant for theft, resisting arrest and drug paraphernalia charges.

The suspect was apprehended near Blue Mountain Drive-In Restaurant, 1439 Blue Mountain Drive.

The warrants related to an alleged Oct. 23, 2013 theft in North Catasauqua and a Lehigh County probation.

Lehigh Township police filed charges against Redline for alleged marijuana possession.

Police officers from Lehigh and Moore townships; Walnutport and Northampton boroughs, including the Northampton K-9 patrol; and a Pennsylvania State Police helicopter were involved.

NASD Police Officer Scott Rehrig and a Lehigh Township police officer were stationed at Lehigh Elementary School entrance during the lockdown, according to district officials.

The March 12 situation is a case study in NASD emergency procedures.

"We have different emergency procedures and plans in each of our buildings. In this particular case, we had an external threat. We have different categories of lockdowns," Kovalchik said during an interview this week with The Press.

During a lockdown, no one is allowed in or out of a school building. This includes students, teachers, maintenance personnel and parents, Kovalchik explained.

"The teachers and students could conduct their normal activities inside the building," Kovalchik said of the Lehigh Elementary lockdown.

Typically, in an incident like the one March 12, NASD Chief of Police Officer Wil Williams is notified first. He then notifies the superintendent's office. Kovalchik then notifies the building principal, in this case, Lehigh Elementary School Acting Principal Carol Cunningham.

"I spoke to her [Cunningham] four or five times," Kovalchik.

Kovalchik held a voluntary 45-minute debriefing about the incident with staff after conclusion of school hours on the afternoon of March 12 at Lehigh Elementary, which has 620 students kindergarten through sixth grade and approximately 50 district staff.

"That whole situation was about four and one-half hours of my day. We held a voluntary staff meeting after school to discuss any particular questions that staff had concerning that situation," Kovalchik said.

Each district school building has a Building Security Team, which meets monthly.

Drills are held monthly at each school building. In an emergency, a specific tone, similar to that of a fire alarm, is sounded.

"The staff and students are well aware of what they need to do when a lockdown occurs," Kovalchik said.

Kovalchik used the district Blackboard Connect system via phone message and email to alert Lehigh Elementary parents of the situation.

"Once the all-clear is given, I send out another notice to parents that we're back to the normal situation.

"We have to prepare for the worst-case scenario. The top priority in the district is to provide the safest environment for our students and staff," Kovalchik said.