PA system fails two months after emergency lockdown

Hadley Carr, Editor-in-Chief

Jackson-Reed’s Public Announcement (PA) system failed in a lockdown drill on January 20, despite repairs that were made following the emergency lockdown in November when shots were fired outside the school.

Principal Sah Brown said the PA system’s malfunction during the drill allowed the administration to “assess other aspects of our emergency response communication.”

Some teachers said they were upset about the PA system’s failure during the drill. Social studies teacher Allegra Penny said she was “livid” about the drill. 

“It felt like [the administration] hadn’t done anything,” she said.

Science teacher Christopher Martineau added that “before you run any kind of drill, you have to make a thorough test of the equipment.” 

However, other teachers felt the drill was beneficial. 

“The drill was really important,” math teacher Elana Horowitz said. “In terms of the PA system being down, I actually do think it was a good thing. If we had a drill where the PA system was down, we would all know what to do.”  

When a lockdown begins, teachers receive a notification through an emergency messaging app called RAVE. Teachers and staff were required to download the app during lockdown trainings at the beginning of the school year. In the absence of the PA system, the app is the one other official form of communication sent to the Jackson-Reed staff.

Director of Strategy and Logistics Brandon Hall said that contractors are on site “daily” to remediate all issues with the PA system as they arise. 

The PA system was installed in the first month of the 2022-23 school year. “The PA system has been working intermittently throughout the last couple of months since the new system has been installed,” Hall said. After the malfunction during the drill, the contractors repaired the issue immediately. 

The drill was held at the same time of day as the actual lockdown, a decision that received mixed reviews.

Penny reached out to Brown with her concerns with the drill. Brown explained to Penny the reasoning for his decision. “[Brown wanted] to show students who had a bad experience that we’ve addressed [their] concerns,” Penny said.

Penny’s classroom was in close vicinity to the shooting that was the cause of the lockdown. The gunshots are believed to have come from the 3900 block of Chesapeake Street, just outside of Jackson-Reed. 

“We had heard the gunshots and seen people running, so we locked our door, closed our shades, and turned off our lights,” Penny said. “We had heard and seen things that made it feel scary,” she continued.

In Penny’s class, most of the concerns were regarding faulty door locks and PA system malfunction. “I spent a lot of time in my classes after [the actual lockdown] talking about [students’] experiences…and the number one thing [brought up] was that doors didn’t lock or PA systems didn’t work.” Penny said she submitted this feedback to Hall and Brown. 

After the lockdown, the administration led another training for teachers and staff. “[The training] re-emphasized what to do in case the PA system doesn’t work,” Hall said. The administration also went through training with the School Emergency Response Team (SERT) around protocols in special case situations, such as a faulty PA system. 

Another lockdown drill is planned for the spring. •