POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Heartland educators vowed to step up intruder training for every teacher.
Many actually learned exactly what steps to take to react if an active shooter should take aim at their classroom.
Officials at Poplar Bluff schools told us right after the tragedy in Connecticut, security would reach new permanent heights on every campus.
"It just tells us we need to be prepared," said Amanda Pryor, first grade teacher at Lake Road Elementary School.
In fact, 'safety' is literally written on the walls at Lake Road Elementary in Poplar Bluff.
"We had to go above and beyond," said Eric Weadon, Lake Road Elementary principal.
Weadon was among every elementary teacher in the district who went though active shooter training, from Southeast Missouri State University in February. High school teachers had already been through it just weeks before Sandy Hook, but right after the elementary school horror, it became obvious no student, no matter how young and innocent, was immune to such violence.
"It really made us feel like this could possibly happen," said Weadon.
The training known as A.L.I.C.E. teaches how to respond if an intruder threatens. Weadon said they've considered those principles every day since, and took them a step further. A.L.I.C.E. stands for Alert Lockdwon Inform County Evacuate.
"As soon as we had the A.L.I.C.E. training, all of my teachers came back and we looked at our plan for an active shooter," Weadon said. "We revised our plan, we made changes and looked at our building safety as a whole. Figure out what we need to do to beef up safety as a whole."
School leaders made the decision to be straight forward with students. They didn't want them to be confused if real danger approached.
"Students know, and teachers, when they hear 'active shooter,' students go into action and everybody knows their job," said Weadon.
Teachers turned it into a very important lesson.
"We do explicitly teach what to do so with this we do the same thing and tell the kids," said Pryor. "We don't sugar-coat it, this is what we need to do and how we are gonna do it."
Their strategy is top secret, and that's the way teachers and students say they plan to keep it.
Weadon said they would have active shooter drills just as often as they have fire drills.
"In an emergency you get nervous, but if you've been trained and you practice it then you are better equipped," Pryor said.
The entire Poplar Bluff District brought in experts to analyze every building from the inside out and develop an air-tight system. At Lake Road, changes will be ongoing; including more locked doors and visitor screening, a must for teachers who love their kids.
"I love them dearly, they are like my own," Pryor said. "I say every day I have 21 kids of my own."
Schools like Kelly and Malden also went through extensive active shooter training with A.L.I.C.E. instructors and local departments. Cairo's district also continues to practice drills as if there were a gunman in the building routinely, just as they would for a fire or tornado.
For more information on Southeast Missouri State University's A.L.I.C.E. training, you can click here.