January 26, 2024

Debrief - Eaton County Shelter in Place

Please take a moment to read this letter from Dr. Bertolini in regards to Maple Valley's response to the Eaton County Shelter in Place.

Greetings all,

As the events of today are winding down, I wanted to share with you the events that transpired today to reassure you that the welfare of our students and staff were always at the forefront of our decisions.

Around 5 am this morning our Transportation Director was alerted that a shelter in place order had been issued. He called me immediately and I reached out to our School Resource Officer (SRO) to confirm details of this order so we could take steps in response to the event. For details regarding this event from the Michigan State Police, you can follow their Twitter (now known as X) feed @MSPFirstDist .

  • After confirming the perimeter of the Michigan State Police search area and receiving their assurance that the suspect was contained within that perimeter, we began our planning.
  • All students within that area who ride our buses were contacted by phone and where we could not contact them by phone our SRO Deputy Fronckel drove to the homes to let families know they should remain sheltered in place and we would provide transportation as needed once the all clear was issued. 
  • We continued to monitor the situation as progress was made in the manhunt. 
  • After confirming the threat was contained within the search area, we decided to hold school open. We were not directed to shelter in place at Maplewood which is the closest school to the area as it was not at risk per police assessment. 
  • We sent out robocalls to alert our families and staff to the postings on Facebook and our website.
  • We opted to hold a shelter in place out of an abundance of caution at Maplewood school. Our SRO from Barry County Deputy Olmstead joined Mr. Harvey and Mr. Chamberlain to have a strong administrative and police presence at Maplewood to allay any concerns. We notified our community that we were going into a shelter in place at Maplewood.
  • Students were quickly and efficiently brought into the school, gathered in the gym/cafeteria and provided breakfast, then dismissed to go to their classrooms.
  • We continued to monitor the police progress and maintain confidence that there was no direct threat to our buildings or people outside of the police defined containment area. 
  • When we were notified that the all clear had been given due to the suspect being arrested without incident, we released our students at Maplewood from the shelter in place and resumed our normal day of school. 
  • We communicated the change in status via robocall and letter. We sent out talking points information to our staff and directed our community to our resources on our webpage to conduct talks with children this evening. 
  • Checks were made on every classroom at Maplewood by Mr. Harvey who confirmed staff and students were doing ok. Communication was ongoing throughout the day with all administration from transportation to all buildings within the district regarding student and staff welfare. 
  • As I received the updates from my contact at the Michigan State Police and the Twitter feed to share for information giving, I composed this letter of debrief for the community and our staff.

I know incidents such as this are deeply concerning. At every point in the situation as it unfolded this morning, we continued to have ongoing conversations with our SROs and MSP to ensure the decisions we made would keep our students safe.  That is precisely what happened today.  All of our efforts ensured there was communication with the people in the affected area of our community, people received information and modifications to our plan as we made changes out of an abundance of caution and we continued to monitor and follow the status of our people and provide resources at both the building and home areas. 

We will always err on the side of caution and we will make decisions based upon the actual circumstances as analyzed by our partners in law enforcement and our own capacity to take care of our students. 

The decisions that were made today were made with great deliberation and carefully gathered information to keep our students safe and engaged in school. 

I am aware that based upon the concerns and fears expressed in social media that people are worried about the factors that went into this decision. I want to assure you that student and staff welfare is always my top priority and had there been any question whatsoever that the plan we followed today had any potential for risk for our students, we would have followed a different course. Fortunately, all of our plans were executed well with solid information and did serve to keep all of our students safe and well.

It pains me to no end that we live in a world where these procedures and efforts continue to be necessary. My two points of consolation are this:
Maple Valley is a loving and supportive community that places value on our children’s welfare. That has protective qualities for our children and ourselves.
Our staff in partnership with our first responders made solid decisions based upon fact and followed our plans efficiently and well to keep our students and staff free from any harm.

Let us resolve to continue to take care of one another, strive to maintain our normalcy and positive environment despite the impacts of an unsettled individual while we continue to learn from every opportunity we have to improve our processes.

I wish you all a peaceful and loving weekend with your families,

Dr. Katherine Bertolini