Upstate church serves as reunification site for school district emergencies

We talked to church officials who helped get students to safety following the Tanglewood school shooting last month
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 8:22 PM EDT
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SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. - Buses brought students and staff to Brookwood in Simpsonville after a deadly school shooting at Tanglewood Middle last month. The church serves as a safe place for parents and children to reunite if an emergency happens.

“We got the phone call and I’d probably say it was only 20 to 30 minutes by the time the first bus was coming,” Facilities Services Director, James Taplin said.

Some parents had questions about the site, which is about a 20-minute drive from the school.

The district said Brookwood checks off all the boxes in the event of an emergency. It’s always staffed, has the capacity to hold around 700 students, and there’s enough space to divide students into smaller groups.

Brookwood is one of several reunification spots for schools in Greenville County. Church staff have trained for emergencies and as soon as they got the call, they put their plan into motion.

“When we get the phone call, we have minutes to get everything set up, but we already know what that is. There’s a folder on all our desks. We grab it and we just go. Each of the guys know what their responsibilities are as far as lockdowns and room setups,” Taplin said.

Law enforcement secures the building while church staff sets up counseling spaces and classrooms where students wait until their parents arrive.

“We have counselors on site. We have pastors on-site, so when this came in, we know they have grief counselors at the school, but we have all of that on-site that we can pull from,” Taplin said.

Their goal is to provide comfort and a calm space in the aftermath of tragedy.

“We also have rooms on the side that we had set up for their medical teams in case students needed medical care,” Human Resources Director, Nina Mitchell said, “We had other rooms that we had set aside for their trauma counselors, and we had our pastors available in the event people wanted to talk from a spiritual perspective.”

Brookwood also serves as a reunification site in the event of other emergencies like a fire, tornado, or flood. The church says they’ve partnered with the school district for 10 years.