Dogs Help Holy Angels Students
By Sharon Boehlefeld, Features Editor
February 28, 2019
AURORA—Youngsters at Holy Angels School in Aurora suffered not just from a hard lockdown Feb. 15, but also from the injury of one of their fathers, a first responder who was injured during the mass shooting at the Henry Pratt Co. warehouse.
“One of the first responding officers that was shot is a long-time parent here,” said Principal Tonya Forbes. He also has a senior at Aurora Central Catholic High School. 
He is John Cebulski, and many students knew him well as a parent of friends, as school liaison officer and  as boys basketball coach. Hearing of his injuries, she said, “shook them up quite a bit.” But, she added, “I’ve talked with the family and he’s recovering well.”
The warehouse is only blocks away from the parish school. 
“The event unfolded literally in our backyard,” Forbes said. “We watched it from our office windows. The school was the only school that was in hard lockdown.”
With the incident behind them, the focus has been on ensuring the students are coping well.
“We had extra counselors on hand and brought in comfort/therapy dogs for our students on Tuesday (Feb. 19), which was a huge distraction for them,” Forbes said.
There was also a follow-up meeting  with parents to talk about school’s safety efforts.
“Overall, these teachers did an amazing job keeping the kids safe, calm, and entertained during a very frightening situation,” Forbes added.
She credits their response, in part, to “the ALICE training that my teachers began this year and our continued efforts to become a certified organization through the help of the Aurora Police Department.”
ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and evacuate. It is a form of “advanced lock-down training,” said Forbes, who became a certified ALICE trainer last year.
“The training focuses on giving teachers options besides the traditional lock the door and hide in the corner response.  ... We have been led by the Kane County undersheriff — another long-time parent — in an afternoon session of ALICE training.”
Holy Angels isn’t the first diocesan school to face lock-downs.
“All our schools are working hard at safety,” said Michael Kagan, superintendent of diocesan Catholic schools. “A lot have done ALICE, but they’ve all done something involving bringing in police and other outside experts for planning.”
He said each school goes through various yearly drills to prepare, from the traditional fire drills to lock-down, shelter-in-place and exit drills.
At Holy Angels, teacher training began in August. Since then, Forbes said, “We have also purchased Echo Dots for all of our classrooms as a secondary method of alerting teachers to potential danger. ... In the event we could not use our intercom system, we would still be able to alert all classrooms of a dangerous situation.”
Forbes said parents donated money for the system, adding “Amazon Business worked with us to make these affordable once they learned how we planned to use them.”
“Now that we’ve experienced the unthinkable,” Forbes added, “we’re in the process of soliciting funds to upgrade some doors within the building as well as adding the (public announcement system) to our hallways and locker rooms.”
She said they also plan to “tweak our emergency response in some small ways to insure that we get information out in a timely manner.”