Thousands of Willoughby-Eastlake students practice ALICE training

WILLOWICK, Ohio-- When there are only seconds to make an escape every move matters. It's the lesson more than 8,000 Willoughby-Eastlake students learned Monday during the district's active shooter response training.

"We see a lot of scary things that happen in our world," said teacher Joelle Geiger to her classroom of students.

Students got a dose of a harsh truth: School shootings can happen anywhere, anytime. That fact, the reason school staff and first responders say they want to make sure students understand how critical ALICE training can be.

"I have three of my own and my first thought or feeling that comes is just sadness, almost para-military train children to avoid an active shooter but it just keeps happening; it's just a part of our society," said superintendent Steve Thompson.

Students learned through videos with police, quizzes from teachers then through demonstration as buildings were calmly and quickly evacuated.

"They did great," said Royalview Elementary School Principal Kimberly Cantwell. "We evacuated 1,500 kids; my kids were in under two and a half minutes."

Standing nearby keeping an eye on evacuation progress along with first responders was the middle school principal who shares the Willowick school campus.

"It's an unfortunate thing that we have to practice but in 2018 it's a necessary evil," said Brett McCann, principal at Willowick Middle School. "We look at it no different than fire drills."

The drill comes just months after installing 3M Safety and Security Window Film on some windows and glass doors. The protective covering, according to district officials, is said to hold up even if shots were fired at the window. In August, FOX 8 reported how the district plans to spend a total of $150,000 through the next three years to install the film in all school buildings.

"When I was in grade school we did the weather drills and fire drills. There wasn't anything like this," said Willowick Fire Chief Robert Posipanka. "It kind of breaks your heart."

In 2008, a Willoughby South High School student carried a gun into the school and fired it inside the hallway. No students were hurt during the incident.

"It can happen anywhere and I would much rather err on the side of caution than to assume it can't happen here," said Thompson.