Third-grader Madisyn Burgess illustrated her emotions during a hard lockdown Monday at Rose M. Gaffney Elementary School in Machias. The lockdown was prompted by shootings in the area that left three people dead. Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Woog

It was around lunchtime on Monday when schools in the Machias area initiated their second lockdown in two school days, this time due to reports of shootings in the area that turned out to be part of a triple homicide.

Third-grader Madisyn Burgess, 8, was in class at Rose Gaffney Elementary School where her teacher encouraged students to pursue a quiet activity. She drew six emoji-like drawings to illustrate her feelings during the lockdown: fear and uncertainty.

“I just felt that Maddie in the moment was able to express her feelings in a safe way,” said her mom, Sarah Woog. “Getting it out helped her deal with the situation in the moment. Bringing the drawing home gave us an opportunity to talk about those feelings.”

Millions of students across the U.S. this school year are likely to experience school lockdowns, during which their movement around and in and out of school buildings is limited because of a threat to safety. In Maine over the past year, schools in Bangor and Portland have entered lockdown mode multiple times following threats of violence.

The National Association of School Psychologists warns that lockdowns can lead to anxiety, stress and “traumatic symptoms” in some students and staff, in addition to the loss in learning time.

Schools in Machias initiated a soft lockdown on Friday after an Orono business received a vague email threat mentioning Sen. Susan Collins and listing high schools in the Bangor area, Down East and in northern Maine. During the soft lock down, students were able to move around the school building, but no one could leave or enter without specific authorization.

Then, on Monday morning, reports of shootings in Machias prompted another lockdown. This one lasted for an hour, during which students had to remain in their classrooms. A 63-year-old Northfield man was arrested late Monday morning and charged with killing three people in Machias and Jonesboro.

The back-to-back situations warranting a lockdown were unusual, Superintendent Scott Porter said. They’re not indicative of a growing trend of lockdowns in Machias-area schools, he said.

During the lockdown, “it’s quiet,” Principal Joyce Fragale of Rose Gaffney Elementary School said. “Teachers have the shades pulled and doors locked, and are listening for the next guidance from me.”

Lockdowns are important to school safety and to schools’ preparedness for a crisis, according to the National Association of School Psychologists. “However, it is imperative that school leaders understand that the perception of safety or risk, even absent a real threat, can have a very real effect on students and staff,” the association wrote in an article called “Mitigating Psychological Effects of Lockdowns.”

During a lockdown, administrators are usually juggling the challenges of keeping parents up to date through alerts, updating teachers on the situation and communicating with law enforcement, Porter said.

“I’m sure that some students are fearful when we go to any kind of lockdown,” he said. “We are sensitive to the different reactions of students and teachers.”

Teachers and administrators usually debrief after a lockdown to discuss how students are doing, Fragale said.

“So we work really hard to make sure the students are safe,” Fragale said. “We talk to the teachers about how to handle that. They are very good at talking to the students.”