WINTERVILLE, N.C. — Pitt Community College employees used the lull between semesters this week to learn about effectively responding to violent critical incidents.

   The potentially lifesaving training took place on campus Monday and Tuesday and was led by Navigate360 instructors George Hunter and John Gilbert Jr. The central theme of their instruction was getting people to participate in their own survival if attacked, until emergency personnel can arrive.

   “There’s still traditional lockdown going on in this country, and it’s still not working,” Hunter said. “… We’ve got to have something better.”

   For Hunter, a former sheriff’s deputy with 27 years of law enforcement experience, “something better” is calling 911 and running from danger, using non-traditional exits if needed, as soon as it’s safely possible. It’s also delaying or denying an attacker’s entry, countering the aggressor through distraction and control techniques, and other measures.

   “We’re talking about surviving a violent critical incident … we’ve got to be doing something,” Hunter said. “… I have one life to live, not one life to give.”

   Hunter said analysis of active shooter incidents, including the ones at Columbine High School in 1999 and Virginia Tech in 2007, has shown “it doesn’t take long to kill many people.” He said, on average, perpetrators fired one round every four to 15 seconds and hit targets at a 50-70 percent rate. For every two people struck by bullets, one never made it back home.

   At Virginia Tech, a lone gunman needed just nine minutes to kill 30 of the 47 students and faculty he shot in an academic building. In Newtown, Conn., a single shooter fired 156 rounds in Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 26 and wounding two in less than five minutes.

   “We turn the lights out, close the blinds, shut doors and put red or green cards under the door—that defeats the purpose,” Hunter said. “It’s insane, because it’s letting the shooter know where people are.”

   Near the conclusion of their training, PCC employees participated in active shooter simulations that hammered home the concepts taught earlier in the day.

   PCC partnered with Navigate360 this year, after the mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas. President Lawrence Rouse explained the college is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for students, employees and visitors.

   “We must be proactive when it comes to safety,” Rouse said. “By teaming with Navigate360, PCC is helping employees develop skills and strategies for responding to violent critical incidents while hoping they never have to use that training.”

ECHS Teacher Laurel Currie works with students in her Math I course on the first day of the 2022-23 school year. (PCC photo)

New School Year Underway at Early College High School on PCC’s Campus

   Pitt County Schools Early College High School (ECHS) students and staff are off to a good start in the new school year that began Aug. 4.

   The school, which is located on PCC’s main campus in Winterville, has an enrollment of 330 students and a curriculum that features a mixture of college and high school classes focused on science, technology, engineering and math. Students can graduate in four to five years with a high school diploma from ECHS and an associate degree from PCC.

   Since opening its doors in 2015, ECHS has earned numerous performance accolades, including National Distinguished Title I School honors two years in a row.

   “Because the school is smaller, we provide layers of support for our students that increases their efforts in the classroom,” Principal Wynn Whittington says.

   Two days before classes began, more than two hundred ECHS students and parents attended the school’s open house night to meet teachers and staff and learn about class expectations.

   “We had the best attendance we have ever had in our seven years of operation,” Whittington said. “… I think people were just excited to start school like we did before COVID.”

   In addition to facility tours, open house attendees received bus information, completed paperwork and paid school fees. They also learned how ECHS allocates its Federal Title 1 funding on instructors, support staff, technology and other layers of student support services.

   “Open house allows us to get schedules in student hands and familiarize themselves before the first day of school,” Whittington said. “We also provide them with a school supply list, technology needs and other informational materials.”

   After operating out of modular units just behind PCC’s Ed & Joan Warren Building the first three years, ECHS students and employees moved into a brand new, 13,000-square-foot home at the start of the 2018-19 academic year. The structure features eight classrooms and a multipurpose room and offers students plenty of space to spread out and work on projects.

   Throughout the academic year, ECHS students are allowed to participate in PCC clubs and organizations and various student activities on campus. Whittington said ECHS’s relationship with the college plays a role in the school’s success academically and culturally.

   “We have a phenomenal higher education partner in Pitt Community College, and, together, we are changing lives every day,” he said.