Updating and refining current plans has been on Superintendent Patton's to-do list since July.

USD 382 responded to a "very vague . . . I don't even know it was a threat" situation on Dec. 21, when off-duty officers from the Pratt Police Department stood by in district buildings and administrators increased their vigilance after a Kiowa County student received a message that implied a possible threat, which was then texted to a student in Pratt County.

"The information was taken seriously and we responded," Superintendent Suzan Patton reported at a Board of Education meeting Monday.

Each building has a crisis plan already, but an effort is underway to develop an overall comprehensive plan.

The district is not operating in a vacuum, Pratt High Assistant Principal Curtis Nightingale emphasized, but is using a protocol developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and working on ways to adapt it to the local situation.

Updating and refining the plan has been on Patton's to-do list since she began her new job in July.

"We need a well-thought-out plan and one that we have practiced," she said.

In response to a question by BOE member Bill Skaggs, Nightingale said that the term "lockdown" can have several definitions, and how USD 382 interprets it may not be communicated to the public.

It is not be possible to contain information, whether factual or not, because of the ready availability of social networking.

"The biggest hurdle is to educate parents about their role in a crisis," Nightingale said, noting that a parent's first response to a perceived threat may be to go to the school. "They could be barring an ambulance's ability to help their child; their first response should not be to immediately descend upon the school. That's not helpful."

BOE member Andrea Wilson suggested that district officials should communicate with parents ahead of time, "telling them we do have a plan" and reassuring them so they will have confidence that "they know what they're doing."

Nightingale said that a flyer could be available at registration day, saying "we have a plan that's approved by FEMA and here's a checklist for you, dos and don'ts in the event of a crisis."

Pratt High Principal Steve Blankenship reported that juniors and seniors with A and B grades can be released from back-to-back seminar and lunch periods, with several advantages for both teachers and students. With fewer students attending seminar period, groups could be combined to free teachers on a rotating basis to do collaborative planning within and between departments.

Also, fewer students could mean that those needing extra help could find a teacher who is "not overwhelmed by so many kids" for one-on-one assistance. Additionally, the extra release time from school would be a motivating factor for students to achieve good grades.

Senior Sam Eastes, attending the meeting as a student council representative, said, "I think it's a good idea."

Freshman Katie Buhler made a presentation to the Board on a textile research project that she entered in competition last spring at Fort Hays State University, where she qualified to attend the National Junior Academy of Science competition in Boston in February.

She was assisted in developing the project by science teachers Pat Klassen and Lu Bitter.

The Board approved retirement applications from Andy Kisner, Liberty Middle School physical education teacher, Susan Meigs, Southwest Elementary second grade teacher, and Susan Teske, LMS English teacher, the resignation of Beyond the Bell teacher Charlene Melson and hiring of Audra Leckner as Beyond the Bell teacher, Ruby Pearce as cafeteria substitute and Harley Walker as LMS secretary.