McKenzie County Public School District #1 considers school safety and security the highest priority and has put extensive effort and resources into ensuring our responses and procedures promote best practices and, ultimately, the highest level of student safety in our school buildings, as possible. This includes continual work revising our crisis plan, responses and regular coordination with our school resources officers and Watford City Police Department in the review of scenarios involving the overall security of our buildings and general well-being of our students. The recent renovation of the main entry at Watford City Middle School is an example of the school district ensuring its facilities provide the highest levels of security possible. Our staff is regularly trained in crisis response and general student support in either crisis situations or daily school learning environments. The implementation of the monthly security drills and notifications (Security Tuesdays) has also brought further awareness and ongoing dialog regarding our responses and opportunities to improve our protocols if necessary.
The recent swatting situation on January 18th put our responses into practice and the overall response from our SROs, WCPD, and MCPSD #1 employees was excellent and highly professional. These unfortunate situations cause unwarranted stress and anxiety for parents, staff, and students. However, it allows us to review our procedures and to address any deficiencies and improvements to our standard response protocols. With recent investments in our internal communications system for emergencies, all our staff were aware of the situation as it was transpiring, regardless of the school building. The response was swift, and the situation resolved in a short period of time, in which the threat was deemed unsubstantiated and the process of releasing the holds at each building was initiated. The school district coordinates with the Watford City Police Department in such events and provides a joint statement regarding any major incident to ensure accuracy with information provided regarding the situation and response. The time frame for creating this statement is relatively short. However, faster communication with current events and the situation itself is often requested. The school district is unable to provide any statements prior to confirmation with the WCPD and the issuance of a joint statement; the offices are instructed to communicate that there is no information available at this time and a statement will be provided when available. We encourage parents to be patient and cooperative to ensure the situations are addressed as necessary and to allow for the response protocol to be completed effectively. The situation must be resolved at some level before formal communication is provided to avoid miscommunication or errors that may escalate the situation.
Watford City High School also recently reported a situation in which it was suspected fentanyl was discovered in the building. To clarify, further testing is required to verify fentanyl was indeed present and we are awaiting official confirmation. It is possible the substance may not test positive once the formal testing process is completed, which may take several months. However, the response from the high school is one of concern regardless of the pending test results; the high school and school district remain committed to maintaining a drug-free environment and to support student safety by keeping our buildings drug free at all levels. Fentanyl is an issue across the country, and we need to be vigilant in educating our youth about its dangers and avoiding any unfortunate situations. A national speaker will be at the high school in March to address students on fentanyl and other substance-related issues; other efforts at the high school are also ongoing to educate students and work collaboratively with parents to keep our youth safe from the dangers of illegal substances. We encourage parents to communicate with their students on these issues and to encourage students to make good decisions. Please feel free to reach out to a school building administrator or counselor regarding any student concerns of this nature.