OTTUMWA, Iowa — Fridays officer-involved shootout hit close to home for Prime Time Youth Care summer camp staffer Bethany Amos. “It was a situation where we were all pretty worried.”
It was a call that Ottumwa’s Superintendent of schools Nicole Kooiker says can stop your heart. “They called me over the intercom and your heart sinks because you have no idea what that is so at first it is extremely stressful,” she said. Kooiker was in Johnston, Iowa attending a leadership seminar.
While the Ottumwa Police Department was busy outside of Liberty Elementary school and exchanging gunfire with three suspects behind the school, Amos and other camp staff inside quickly ushered nearly fifty students to safety. She said, “We were in a small room. There was furniture and we could get around and we stayed there until we could get released.”
The reaction to a difficult situation from staff was easy. “At our PTYC program there are monthly training sessions that happen with the staff so they are aware of what to do with students in those situations,” said Kooiker.
Chaos may have been nearby but you wouldn’t have known it by looking at the children said Amos, “They were actually really calm. I was surprised at how chill most of them were.” A few well chosen words may have helped. “They did it as a practice drill initially and said ‘We are just practicing to keep everybody calm,” said Kooiker.
After a few hours though, children`s curiosity began to catch on. “There was a few of them that said this is taking a long time and we were like yeah some drills are like that,” said Amos. By then the threat had passed. Kooiker said, “Never a situation you want to be in but this is why you practice those types of situations so if it ever occurs we know how to respond to that. It made me proud to be the Ottumwa Superintendent.”
As if protecting dozens of children Friday was not enough, Ottumwa police showed up Monday to hand out stuffed animals and treats, to help the kids adjust after the stressful situation. Amos said, “It really spoke to me when I came in and I saw them here. I was like yeah I’m proud to be an Ottumwan. They are always looking out for everybody.”
School district officials hope to meet with police soon to discuss any ways they can improve their lock down protocol if necessary.