LAKEWOOD - Students were sitting in their classrooms at 9:30 a.m. Monday when the voice of Lakewood High School Co-Principal Mario Jimenez sounded over the intercom.
"Attention please, Lakewood staff and students, we are now on lockdown," he said. "This is a drill."
Teachers quickly shut off lights, closed blinds and locked doors.
Students huddled quietly under their desks.
Each year, the Long Beach Unified School District holds lockdown drills for all of its elementary, K-8, middle and high schools to prepare staff and students in the event of an intruder on campus. The district has practiced these drills for more than a decade, but school officials have been extra vigilant about the practices and policies for campus safety following recent shootings at a Connecticut elementary school and a high school in Central California.
On Jan. 14, the hyper-vigilance was evident when more than 50 Long Beach police officers responded to reports of an armed intruder at Bancroft Middle School in East Long Beach. The school remained on lockdown for nearly two hours as hundreds of frantic parents flooded the campus.
The reports turned out to be false, but many parents said they appreciated the swift response from school officials and law enforcement.
Cathy Coy, manager for the LBUSD's emergency preparedness program, said the district in recent weeks has been reviewing its procedures for school lockdowns to see if any changes are needed.
"We want to make sure that our lockdown drills run as smoothly as our fire drills and earthquake drills," Coy said.
The courtyard at Lakewood High was eerily quiet Monday as campus safety officers, school administrators and deputies from the sheriff's Lakewood Station walked through the campus, checking that doors were locked, lights were off and teachers were following the proper procedures.
"We want the community to know that we're doing everything to make sure our kids are safe," Jimenez said.
As part of the lockdown procedure, teachers are required to keep their identification cards on them and use judgement when calling students to the room for shelter in the event that a perpetrator could be posing as a victim. The high school this year also featured special presentations on school safety in all of its English classes.
"We don't want to think about it, but it's something we need to think about," said Lakewood Co-Principal Cheryl Cornejo.
After about 10 minutes, the lockdown was lifted and students soon began pouring out of classrooms. Sophomore Emily Ayon said she and her friends are glad to participate in drills.
"When something scary happens sometimes you can't even think, so I think it's great that we practice this," she said. "If something happens, we'll know what to do."
The district is planning lockdown drills for five more schools on Wednesday.