Ensuring School Safety: An Update
The safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff is the most important priority at New Hartford Central School District. We always stand ready to take all necessary measures in addressing potential and actual threats to our school community.
The following is a discussion of the latest tools and procedures we are using to keep everyone safe. We also include a look at some new security technologies on the horizon.
Current Safety Plans:
Building safety plans are updated on an annual basis. Each school practices safety drills throughout the year. We practice various types of emergency response scenarios that include evacuating the buildings and moving all students, staff, and faculty to a safe location. Such practice helps ensure that students and staff know what to do in case of an emergency.
The District continues to stay current with emergency drills as required by the New York State Education Department. In compliance with current regulations, each building now conducts eight fire/evacuation drills (previous regulations required twelve) and four lockdown drills. Each school building is working towards the completion of mandated drills this school year.
These buildings also conduct an early release drill. The District has established off-campus reunification sites where parents can pick up their children in the event an emergency does not allow students and staff to return to campus.
The School Security Officers continue to be a positive addition to our school community. SSOs provide a professionally-trained and armed security presence on our campuses. We continue to have an excellent working partnership with the New Hartford Police Department. The open lines of communication with the NHPD are crucial to District administration, especially when determining emergency responses. The District continues to advocate for additional resources for this program.
Additionally, each elementary school is staffed with a social worker or counselor while Perry Junior High and the High School have both a social worker as well as a counselor. The District also has one psychologist dedicated to grades K-6 and another dedicated to grades 7-12.
Collaborating for Safety
In 2018, the District earned the “Titanium Level with Honors” School Safety Excellence Award from the Utica National Insurance Company. This is the highest level awarded by the company. The New Hartford Central School District has earned this level of distinction for the past five years. The award includes a $500 grant to further our safety efforts.
The goal of this award program is to recognize the excellent safety practices and the “District’s efforts to create a safe and secure learning environment for children, an enjoyable and productive work environment for staff, and a comfortable and pleasant experience for visitors to our district.” On behalf of the District Plant Engineer Mr. Andy Morgan, District Safety Officer Mr. John Banek, and the BOCES Safety office coordinated to submit an application for this award.
Superintendent Robert Nole represented New Hartford Central Schools at a recent Safety Coalition Summit that hosted more than seventy local leaders. Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, as well as superintendents and law enforcement officials from around Oneida County, discussed opportunities for greater collaboration toward mutual safety. Members of the District administrative team recently attended the Utica National Insurance Company’s School Risk Management Seminar in East Syracuse. In addition, two community members have been invited to participate in our District Safety Team.
Some of the district’s other current safety procedures and technologies include:
- Security cameras with recording devices are present at the entrance to all of the buildings in the District
- Designated single points of entry for all school community members at all school buildings
- Front entrance doors are equipped with an intercom so that visitors can state the purpose of their visit
- Sixty-six security cameras with recording devices are present in the buildings District-wide
- Increased police presence before, during and after school hours, including the high school lunch break
- Overnight security checks in all buildings, seven days a week. Our morning custodians have been trained to conduct daily and nightly checks to detect any suspicious items and ensure that exterior doors and windows are secure
- Annual building inspections are now conducted collaboratively with the NHPD
- The NHPD and the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department have floor plans for each school building
- Identification badges for all district employees will continue to be required
- Additional exterior lighting on school grounds and in parking lots is now provided
- The District has established direct radio contact with first responders to enhance communication during a crisis
What are the District’s goals to enhance current safety plans?
The District will enhance the SSO Program for the 2018-2019 school year. Additionally, members of law enforcement will be given access to the buildings this spring in order to get better acclimated to the layouts. The District Safety Team will evaluate recent emergency response drills and increase the size of the District Safety Committee.
New Hartford school administration, with the assistance of the New Hartford Police Department, is currently working on scheduling active shooter training for administration this summer through the New York State Department of Homeland Security. The District will also be working on the implementation of safety upgrades in the upcoming building project.
Planned new security technologies include:
- Enhancing and increasing interior and exterior security cameras
- Implementing a swipe card entry system in each building
- Upgrading our telephone system
- Replacing zoned fire alarm systems that include strobes and audible systems
The District will continue to evaluate best practices such as training, personnel, and technology needs to improve upon our school’s emergency management plan. District personnel will actively pursue safety upgrades and recommendations for the District in future capital projects.
Building Safety Plans
These plans are completed at the building level and reviewed by our Director of Safe Schools and the BOCES Safety Office. Building safety plans are confidential. Additionally, the building level plans are submitted to both the New York State Police and State Education Department. Each school uses a single point of entry during school hours. 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. The Senior High School has additional entry points before and during lunch that is monitored by staff. The remainder of the day follows a single entry point procedure.
The District collaborates with the BOCES Safety Office to train all front door personnel on techniques, protocols, and operating procedures for allowing visitors into the building. Signs are prominently displayed that direct visitors to the main entrance as to assist with mandatory check-in procedures. Heightened security awareness continues to be discussed with faculty and staff with their building principals. This includes suspicious activity with regards to vehicles, persons, and/or packages in or around the school buildings and grounds and reporting such to the main office.
A Parent’s Role in Emergency Response
Parents should know that if a situation occurs, our primary focus is to keep all students safe while securing the facilities. Once we assure student safety, accurate information regarding the situation will be disseminated to parents and guardians. We will get this information to you as soon as possible depending on the situation.
The District will utilize email, text messages, and social media to communicate important information. With your help, the district will do its best to be the first to communicate with parents in a prompt manner. For example, it is very important for families to notify their child’s school regarding any changes to contact information so that messages are sent promptly to the correct recipient. If parents would like to receive text messages from our emergency response system--School Messenger System, or “SMS”--parents must notify their child’s school. When SMS contacts parents via text, please reply “Y” to officially opt-in to the service.
Other important items to consider:
- Ensure that parent cell phone is listed as a cell phone (if your home phone and cell phone are the same they must be listed separately)
- Ensure you are listed as a contact for your student(s) with a phone number(s) and email
Parents can help ensure campus safety by reminding your children that--if they hear or see of any threatening activity--to please report such activity to a trusted adult or a school administrator.
Thank you to our Community
Thank you in advance for your understanding and patience as we continue to explore and implement new safety options. We realize increased safety procedures may not always be convenient, but we certainly do appreciate your cooperation.
District administration will continue to work with the BOCES Safety Office and law enforcement officials while exploring opportunities to enhance safety at New Hartford Central School District.