NEWS AND NOTES REGARDING SAFETY IN THENEW HARTFORD CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICTGiven the recent incidents of violence throughout the country, we feel that it is important to provide an update on our practices and policies pertaining to the safety of our children, staff, faculty and administration.
The district has several safety focused teams. The District Safety Team meets bi-annually, or more often, depending on issues and concerns. The District Crisis Team meets in response to a crisis that affects the district. Additionally, each building has its own Building Safety Team.
Building Safety plans have been in existence in the school district since 2001 and are updated on an annual basis. Throughout the year, each school practices safety drills. These include various types of lockdown scenarios, which include evacuating the building and moving all students, staff and faculty to a safe location. This training ensures that everyone knows what to do in a real emergency situation.
Each school uses a single point of entry. This limited access into the buildings provides accountability and prevents unauthorized entry. These areas are supervised and one can only gain access with a security buzzer system.
Our school district collaborates with the BOCES Safety Office for specific training. The BOCES Safety Office trained all front door personnel on techniques, protocols and operating procedures for allowing visitors into the building. Even if personally known by front door personnel, we require all visitors to adhere to the sign-in, sign-out, and name tag procedures.
Building principals periodically review with faculty and staff the importance of maintaining heightened awareness for suspicious activity and reporting it to the main office. This includes suspicious vehicles, persons, and/or packages in or around the school buildings and grounds.
SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER
Board of Education Policy 1015 addresses our School Resource Office (SRO) Referral Policy, which states that building staff may request a referral to the SRO through the building principal. An SRO is present weekly at the Oxford Road Complex and Perry Junior High School. Our SROs are members of the New Hartford Police Department (NHPD) and a member of our District Safety Team and Crisis Team. The SROs are actively involved with our students. We have an excellent working partnership with the NHPD and have open lines of communication.
RECENT ADDITIONAL SAFETY MEASURES
As of January 2013, several additional security measures have been implemented throughout our district:
- Additional security cameras with recording devices were added to the existing systems at the entrance of Bradley Elementary School, in the new science wing of the high school, and the outdoor play area adjacent to Bradley Elementary.
- The front door personnel at Perry Junior High now have an intercom so that visitors can state the purpose of their visit.
- Security blinds were installed in the high school interior science wing classrooms and offices to limit sight from the hallway into the classrooms. In the event of a lockdown, these blinds must be down for safety.
- Police presence before, during and after school hours, including the high school lunch break, has increased.
- Overnight security and morning custodians have been trained to conduct nightly and daily checks to detect any suspicious items and ensure that exterior doors and windows are secure.
- Annual building inspections are conducted collaboratively with the NHPD.
- All building safety plans have been reviewed by the NHPD.
- The NHPD, New Hartford Fire Department, and the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department all have building floor plans.
The district participated in the 2014 Utica National School Safety Excellence Award Program with their submission on January 30, 2014. This program reviews the district’s level of safety policies and procedures relative to nineteen categories related to all aspects of school safety included in programs, inspections and use of facilities. The New Hartford Central School District submitted documentation to qualify for a “Titanium Level”, the highest level awarded.
The Board of Education has established a Facilities Advisory Committee, which reviewed district safety equipment needs. This committee requested recommendations from the Building Safety Teams. The following additional security measures have been recommended for inclusion in the next capital improvement project:
· Reduce the number of outside entrance “hard” keys and replace with swipe-card entrances for all district buildings.
· Require identification badges for all district employees.
· Provide additional exterior lighting on school grounds and in parking lots to supplement existing lighting.
· Install additional exterior and interior cameras with recording devices throughout the district.
· Continue to update building plans for access through NHPD squad car computers.
· Explore the feasibility to establish direct radio contact to NHPD station and squad cars to ensure a faster response time.
As parents, teachers, and administrators, our children’s safety is extremely important to all of us. While incidents of community violence are not easy for anyone to comprehend or accept, the safety of everyone in the district has always been our top priority.
Creating a safe school environment where students can learn and grow depends on a partnership among students, parents, teachers, and other community institutions to prevent school violence. Parents/guardians should think about the issues that affect their school’s safety. Here are some suggestions on how parents can help create a safe school environment:
- Report crimes or any suspicious activities, individuals, or concerns to law enforcement and school officials.
- Tell a school administrator or faculty/staff member if you're worried about a bully or threats of violence by another student(s).
- Know where your children are, what they are doing, and whom they are with at all times. Set clear rules in advance about acceptable activities.
- Ask your children about what goes on during the school day. Listen to what they say and take their concerns and worries seriously.
- Become involved in school activities.
The New Hartford School District and the Board of Education, through their close relationship with local first responders, parents, and the community at large, want to assure you that we are doing, and will continue to do, everything we can to keep the children and our schools as safe as possible.