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Police, fire officials hold city’s largest active-shooter drill at Whitney Young

Lt. Robert Stasch, the active-shooter training coordinator for the Chicago Police Department, speaks before a large-scale drill Thursday at Whitney Young Magnet High School. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Emergency responders staged Chicago’s largest-ever school shooting response drill Thursday evening at Whitney Young Magnet High School on the Near West Side.

Between 500 and 600 people took part in the training exercise, including 250 Chicago police recruits, fire cadets and Whitney Young staffers who played the roles of students.

The drill was spurred in part by Whitney Young administrators, who asked police to evaluate their school’s readiness following the Parkland, Florida, shooting in February.

The simulation involved a person forcing their way into the school and shooting at random from classroom to classroom, according to Lt. Robert Stasch, who oversees the police department’s active-shooter response training.

“It’s an unfortunate set of times in this world,” Stasch said. “One of our goals is to study what happens in the past to prepare for the future.”

Lines of ambulances and police cruisers outside the school drew curious glances from passersby when the drill began with a fire alarm Thursday evening. Police then pushed back pedestrians and media from the area, to avoid revealing their strategies during the roughly three-hour drill, officials said.

Chicago Public Schools hold regular lockdown drills, but Thursday’s was the city’s largest yet to coordinate among school, police and fire officials.

Over the last three years, police have practiced about 10 large-scale active-shooter drills at sites including Wintrust Arena, McCormick Place and Navy Pier.