Elizabeth Homan, 2022Schools' Superintendent Elizabeth Homan

 UPDATED Aug. 1: If Arlington residents happen to witness first-responder vehicles -- squad cars, fire engines and so on -- around Stratton Elementary School this week, there is no need to worry. It's simply a multi-agency training exercise having to do with school safety, said Elizabeth Homan, superintendent of Arlington Public Schools. 

 "The Arlington Police Department, in collaboration with the FBI, has organized a series of drills designed to enhance the preparedness of first responders," Homan wrote July 10 in a message posted in the category of "Superintendent's Updates to Families" on the schools website. It can be read in its entirety here>> Some drills also occurred last month.

"The drills take place during regular work hours," said Weslie Etienne Pierre, APS director of communications, who contacted YourArlington last month to elaborate. "We chose Stratton because there are no APS (including Community Education) or Recreation programs nor any other requests in the community to use that space during the summer. Students are not and should not be in the building. The front office staff members who are in the building are aware [of] and support these drills."

"The training sessions are scheduled to occur ... August 1st-3rd," Homan wrote in her message. "During these days, you may notice an increased presence of emergency vehicles in the vicinity of the school. It is important to emphasize that these activities are part of a planned training exercise and not a real emergency. The purpose of these drills is to simulate various emergency scenarios, allowing first responders to practice their response protocols and coordination."

The message continues, "We would like to clarify that these drills are focused solely on the training of first responders and are not conducted with students. Please be assured that the safety and security of the students, staff and the community are of utmost importance to us, and necessary precautions will be taken to ensure a safe and controlled environment during the training sessions.This collaboration is an invaluable opportunity for our local first responders to enhance their skills and knowledge, which ultimately contributes to the safety and well-being of our community. We will communicate school-specific safety procedures and protocols closer to the start of the school year," the superintendent concluded.

Captain Richard Flynn of the Arlington Police Department responded Wednesday afternoon July 12 to YourArlington inquiries as follows: "We have partnered with the FBI in previous years to conduct this type of training, which is certainly beneficial to both [law enforcement] agencies. The decision to use the Stratton School is based on a number of reasons, to include availability, access, functionality and most importantly [the fact] that it meets the criterion of the training."

He explained further, "Planning for this training has been in the works for months. As you can imagine, there are many moving pieces, and advanced scheduling is critical. The APD is certainly fortunate to partner with the FBI and [to] have the opportunity to receive this specialized training in [its] own community. The role of the FBI is two-fold. [In July, personnel of] the FBI are conducting training and recertification amongst themselves. Later in the month/first week of August, the FBI will then provide training for members of the APD."

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This article was published July 12, 2023, based on a letter from Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Homan posted online July 10, 2023, in the "Superintendents' Updates to Families" section of the Arlington Public Schools website. It was updated later that day with information requested and received via email from Arlington Police Department spokesman Capt. Richard Flynn, and updated again early July 13 for minor wordsmithing and then later July 13 to add quotes from Weslie Etienne Pierre, communications director for the school district. It was updated July 28, 2023, to emphasize that the exercises are expected to occur for the second and final time Aug. 1-3, 2023, and updated again Aug. 1, 2023.

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