November 16, 2018

BY CHRIS HUSSEY

Kayla Merkus, a second-year advertising and marketing communications student, was sitting with her friend in the Sanctuary around 4:30 p.m. on what seemed like a normal Thursday afternoon. Aside from the two of them, the only other people in the space were two other young women. It was dead silent.

That stillness was soon interrupted as a voice came over the speaker system.

“Attention, attention, attention. This is security. Lockdown, lockdown, lockdown.”

Initially, Merkus thought it was a drill, but this lockdown was quite real.

According to a memo sent out to all college staff and employees, the lockdown was put into place at the Doon campus around 4:45 p.m. on Nov. 5 after Counselling Services received a report of a student in crisis and at risk of self-harm.

“At the recommendation of Waterloo Region Police Services (WRPS), the campus was placed on lockdown to ensure the safety of the individual, students and staff,” it read.

The lockdown did not last long, and was lifted just before 5 p.m.
During the lockdown, many students and staff appeared disorientated and confused as to what was going on. In the Sanctuary, two more people who ran into the area soon joined Merkus and the three others, but none of them knew what the proper procedure was during a lockdown.

“None of us knew what to do, so we just sat there and moved to the back corner of the Sanctuary,” she said. “We started getting a little more nervous and worried, but we didn’t want to share those feelings too much with the other students who were with us.”

Tiffany Kleinsteuber, a first-year broadcast – radio student, was working in the library when the lockdown started.

“I think it was a bit scary because you never know what’s going to happen,” she said.

“But we have to move on with the positives and remember we’re safe and not hurt.”

Alana Holtom, corporate communications co-ordinator with the WRPS, said the situation was reported to police and the lockdown was a precautionary measure to hold everyone in place until the situation was addressed and resolved.

“We would rather use more caution than not enough,” she said in an email.
Local 237, a branch of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union which represents academic employees at Conestoga College, sent out an email on Nov. 9 to all its members requesting feedback on the lockdown and how it was conducted.

Lana-Lee Hardacre, president of Local 237, said after the lockdown several faculty members contacted the union regarding some areas that could be improved.

“As a result of their comments I sent an email to our members yesterday to get a better perspective of went well and any recommendations for improvement,” she said in an email.

Merkus agreed with the faculty members and said a custodial staff member came into the Sanctuary and told them the speakers in some parts of the school were not working properly. This staff member told Merkus that, because of this, some classes were being let out while the lockdown was going on.

“I think they should have tested some of this stuff previously, instead of having one drill which not all the students were there for,” she said.
The drill she referred to was held on Sept. 24 at 8 a.m. It was the first college-wide lockdown drill at Conestoga College.

Kleinsteuber said the college should tell what happened specifically to cause the lockdown.

“I think they (students) should know that info so that they can reach out to that person to provide positive support,” she said.

CTV News reported on the day of the lockdown that the student who was in crisis was located and given medical attention.

Security Services declined to comment.

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