The large search and rescue truck parked in front of South Tahoe Middle School on Tuesday was a major point of interest for the half dozen kids in the school’s REACT program.
The students peeked through various cubbies and compartments on the truck, venturing guesses each time as to what was inside. Sometimes it was first aid. Sometimes, thanks to their persistent curiosity, it was body bags.
Today, the group will have what is perhaps another unorthodox middle school experience: a chat with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
If REACT, short for Regional Emergency Action Crisis Team, doesn’t sound like your typical class so far, that’s because it’s not. It was developed shortly before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December as a preemptive measure against similar tragedies, said Al Frangione, safety and technology consultant for the Lake Tahoe Unified School District.
The class, a voluntary incentive course for middle school students, consists of different emergency services agencies visiting the school each weekday for six weeks straight.
“We do everything,” he said. “Anything that has anything to do with law enforcement or the fire departments, we do.”
REACT is a group of local law enforcement and fire protection agencies that have banded together in an effort to make schools safer, said Frangione, who formulated the program almost a year ago.
The middle school’s REACT incentive is part of the larger collaborative effort. However, team members are involved in a more educational role in the program.
Frangione said the idea behind the course is three-fold: to promote positive exposure with emergency services, to help kids explore other career paths and to have a law enforcement “presence” on campus.
But just as important is the development of trust, so students can feel comfortable coming to someone in the event of an emergency, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Pete Van Arnum said. This is particularly important at the middle school level.
“The incident in Sparks (Nev.) last week is a prime example that the middle school age is very vulnerable,” he said, stressing the added importance of having a role model.
Natalee Jannett-Cruz, an eighth-grader at South Tahoe Middle School, is one of the students active in the program who said she feels safer after taking the incentive.
“I feel safe because I know I can trust Al (Frangione),” she said, “and I know he’s always there.”
Frangione said REACT is currently unfunded and runs almost solely on volunteer work. However, he hopes to secure money in the form of grants in the future to continue bettering the program and focus on preventing disasters, he said.
“What we’re trying to accomplish is preempting any of these catastrophes from happening,” Frangione said.
Spook-tacular fundraiser to be held tonight
Starting tonight at 5 p.m., South Tahoe High School Performing Arts Booster Association will present A Spook-tacular Spaghetti Dinner for its own benefit.
The fundraiser will consist of two parts: A dinner at Bert’s Café, followed by a show at the High School’s TADA building.
Tickets, available at 1154 Emerald Bay Road in Dr. Shanahan’s office, cost $10 for the dinner and $15 for the dinner and show.
College seeks community’s assistance in finding vision
Lake Tahoe Community College is asking for the public’s participation in an online survey to help it better reflect the community’s thoughts in its new vision.
The college finds itself at a crucial juncture, according to an October press release, and officials are asking what the public would like to see in LTCC’s future.
The survey, which take about 10 minutes to complete, can be found at http://tinyurl.com/mpu83xc.