After the Newtown, Connecticut, school murders, there was probably no school district in the country that did not review its safety protocols and infrastructure. We asked representatives from the Belmont community safety organizations (fire, police) to join with school department representatives to review our schools and procedures and to recommend improvements we might make. In the interim, I’ve also had the opportunity to join with Chief McLaughlin from the Belmont Police Department in attending safety forums; and others have attended symposia sponsored by the Middlesex Partnership.
The School Safety Advisory Group has completed two of its three charges.
The advisory group has surveyed the school buildings and properties. On the basis of their observations and expertise, we constructed a list of projects and priorities; and we requested up to $100,000 from the Belmont Capital Budget Committee to address the highest priorities. At the same time, we anticipate that previously scheduled projects will be completed within the current school year: for example, locked doors and video cameras at the Chenery Middle School.
The advisory group has just issued for review of the school administration a revision of the policies and procedures manuals; and we will be editing, revising, and printing those documents between now and the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year. In the interim, we have instituted some temporary measures such as the placement of building monitors at both the high school and middle school.
The last task on the advisory group’s list is to identify and recommend new or additional staff training. We have consistently engaged the building professionals in learning about emergency procedures; but with a review of those procedures and a new set of building manuals emerging, we need to determine how to revise our staff development program in such a way to ensure knowledge about, and yet protect the confidentiality and integrity of the procedures.
While a comprehensive review of building and personnel safety is always well undertaken, there can never be absolute assurance of total safety. For the full community to remain vigilant is a must if schools will continue to remain one of the safest environments for children.