Though we have resumed a more typical school week, I know that safety and security are at the top of everyone's minds just one week after the tragedy in Lewiston. Undoubtedly, last week's events have raised questions about how secure our schools are and what measures we have in place to prevent, or at least reduce, the possibility of a violent act occurring in our schools. This week I begin a multi-part series on school safety and security to help communicate the many facets of our approach to safety. For obvious reasons, I will be avoiding information that is unduly specific in order to maintain the integrity of our district's processes, but hopefully this series will provide you with the overall context to which we operate safety measures in our schools.
MSAD #51 has been strategically committed to continuous improvement with regards to safety for many years. Why have we made this commitment? In addition to acknowledging that society in general (and schools within society) has become more susceptible to violent acts, the MSAD #51 Strategic Plan states: Students cannot learn and teachers cannot teach unless schools are safe. Said another way, our mission as an educational institution is diminished when safety is not addressed proactively.
We know that best practice in promoting safety must involve efforts in both the physical and emotional realms, as outlined by the US Department of Justice:
In reference to #1 & #3 in the chart above, the Safety & Security Committee commissioned a Comprehensive Threat & Vulnerability Assessment to be conducted by the US Department of Homeland Security’s School Protective division in 2019-20. This assessment has served as the backdrop to numerous upgrades in our physical safety practices and protocols since then, including:
- Revamped comprehensive Emergency Operations Plan aligned to state and federal standards.
- Upgraded and added surveillance cameras in common areas (internal and external).
- MIW & GHS main office reconfiguration for improved security.
- Double entry door vestibule security all facilities.
- Added alarms on infrequently used doors.
- Physical deterrents at strategic locations.
- Intercom/phone system upgrades district-wide.
- More visitor control on school grounds during school hours.
Next week: Coordination with first responders and school-based law enforcement.