Welcome to the New Year! The holiday season and winter break provided a great opportunity to relax and recharge from the first few months of school. When we returned in January we hit the ground running and started our dash toward the summer months. In the same way that educators need to assess the progress of their curriculum and lesson plans to ensure they are on schedule, we should take time now to review our school safety priorities.
School safety requires a comprehensive strategy. Continuous planning and preparation make up a significant part of this strategy. As we approach this official halfway point of the 2019-20 school year, let’s consider some of these safety and security points to help ensure you are on target to meet your school safety goals.
All security improvements cannot be accomplished during the summer or school breaks. Scheduling, vendors and contractors, and the timing of available funding sometimes require security projects to be done during the school year. Use this opportunity to monitor the progress of ongoing security projects to ensure there is enough funding available and progress made to complete the projects as planned. Staying on course with these projects will assist in the implementation and integration of new security measures into your existing strategy.
This is also a great time to plan for and budget projects for the next school year to provide for continuous improvement.
Among the most important aspects of school safety, is the training of school staff on the proper procedures, roles, and responsibilities that they will be expected to follow and perform. Because school safety best practices are always evolving, training staff regularly on both existing and new procedures will ensure that they are prepared in the event of an emergency. Training should be conducted at least annually for all school personnel including substitutes, coaches, and volunteers. If you have not conducted school safety training yet, review the professional development calendar for the year and be sure to include it.
Most states require security drills of some type for all schools. Depending on the specific laws in your state, this could range from monthly to annually. It is important to know what drills are required and how often drills need to be conducted. Conduct a mid-year review of your school’s drill record to confirm that you are compliant or working toward meeting mandated security drills for the remainder of the school year.
Every school should have an all-hazards emergency operations plan in place to guide the school community during a crisis. In some cases, these plans and specific elements are required by law. These plans, like safety training, must be regularly reviewed and updated to remain consistent with evolving best practices and to provide for accuracy of contact information contained in the plan. Take a look at your plan and revise and update as needed.
Through years of researching school security, we have seen that school safety requires the effort of the whole community. While the school administration bears the ultimate responsibility, external partners must collaborate to implement a truly effective security strategy. Police departments, fire departments, and emergency medical services, as well as other community stakeholders like hospitals, municipal departments, evacuation and reunification site representatives, need to be consulted in the planning process. This can only occur through regular communication. As with the other priorities discussed herein, planning teams should meet at least annually to become familiar with each other and address the needs and roles of all stakeholders involved. Set up a meeting with all stakeholders to familiarize everyone with roles and expectations in the event of a school crisis.
It is never too early to plan for upcoming events. As winter turns to spring, the school calendar will be filled with events that require security planning such as athletic events, proms, dances, and graduation ceremonies. Now is a good time to start. Give your team ample time to prepare so that adequate staffing, equipment, and resources may be arranged to properly secure these memorable events.
School safety and security requires a year-round commitment and it is vitally important to maintain a schedule of tasks and check-ins to keep your security strategy on course.