Open Letter to the Manchester Local Community about School Safety
There is no question that this has been a time of great nervousness for parents, teachers, administrators but most of all for students due to what is happening across the country with gun violence and schools. There are no easy answers or easy fixes apparently as you follow the national news on the issue. What I want to do is assure our community that our administration and Board is working to do everything we can possibly do to keep all within the school safe every day. With that being said I want to inform all community members of not what we have done since the concern has arisen but what we have been working on for more than a year in regard to safety. On Wednesday, February 22 administrators met for 2 hours to discuss what we have and will do. Here is a list of items that our district has and will do:
Over a year ago our district employed an outside professional security company to come in and do an audit of our safety measures. They gave us a list of what could be improved and what should be improved. From that information many items were done in each building.
We installed lighting around each building in the district to make sure that there was light in the darkness due to the time changes. You will perhaps notice this as you drive by in the early morning darkness or in the evening.
There were 35 cameras installed at the high school with the latest technology. These cameras do not only monitor the inside of the building but also the parking areas, track and baseball areas to see unwanted visitors. Each building is equipped with cameras that have both indoor and outside viewing availability. Equipment and updates to cameras have been purchased to make sure that all buildings are equipped.
New locks were purchased at Nolley for all interior doors to make sure that staff had properly locking doors. One item that is often overlooked is what to do when a substitute is in the room so door keys were made and placed in a secure place so that all substitutes know how to lock and unlock doors when necessary. All building administrators have been informed as to how important it is to make substitutes aware of safety in the buildings.
All buildings have a buzzer system in place in order to let parents and visitors into the building. There is a single point of entrance for all visitors except at the high school where there is a front and a rear buzzer system and all other doors of entrance are locked from the outside during the day. There were new buzzers added during the summer at both Nolley and the Middle School where needed. It should be noted that this system is electronically monitored to tell also when the system is used by an employee who may have entered the building at all hours.
The playground area at Nolley is completely enclosed by fencing to protect and keep students in during all recess time and for ease of monitoring by adult playground aides who are on duty when students are out. We have hired an additional aide this year and they are for that purpose at recess time.
Any visitor to the buildings must be buzzed into the office and has to sign in and is given an identification badge. All secretaries have a camera near their phones equipped with the entry button to let the visitor in that also has the ability to talk with the person outside. This may not be seen, but all buildings do not have the ability to see who wants entry, this would be true at the high school and middle school but all buildings, including Nolley, have the same equipment to see the person outside before allowing them in.
Pick up procedure this year at Nolley has been improved and the procedure at the Middle School has been monitored to make sure all students are picked up outside of the building in a central location.
All buildings are equipped with UHF radios that allow each building and the central office to directly talk with the New Franklin Safety forces. The radios were installed by New Franklin and each radio is equipped with not just the ability to talk with New Franklin but also with a panic button that gives immediate attention to an emergency in each school.
A School Resource Officer (SRO) has been provided by New Franklin that is in each building every day. He monitors student activity and responds immediately if needed in another building as he monitors the UHF radio. Our resource officer and building principals also have an app that has been provided by the school that shows a three dimensional view of every classroom for first responder use in case of emergency. This app will be very important in an emergency to detail all facets such as ingress, egress, windows and furnishings in any room in the district.
All of Manchester staff has been trained in the A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate) method of emergency response. Annually all students and staff must do what is called a tabletop exercise on an emergency situation early in the year using the ALICE method for student protection. The High School and Middle School have most recently went over the procedure with teachers and administrators provided by the New Franklin Student Resource Officer to make sure that all of them understand the procedures that they have been practicing. Each staff member has a copy of our safety plan in their room and these plans are in the process of having upgrades put into them as each building has a safety committee responsible for the discussion of safety. Our district has been stressing to students and staff if you “See or Hear Something—Say Something.”
Every building must participate on a regular basis in safety drills. Each building must have a minimum of 6 evacuation drills that many may have known as fire drills but then each building must do a minimum of an additional 3 safety drills that must be a rapid evaluation to a safe area away from the building and at least one lockdown of sheltering in place. These drills must be reported to the Ohio Department of Education. As well as these drills, as mentioned above, all building staff must do a table top drill with a scenario in order to discuss procedures for students. All Safety drills involving rapid evacuation or lockdown must be also notified to the New Franklin Safety force responsible to monitor.
Safer Schools Tip Line is provided by the Ohio Department of Education. The number is 844-SaferOH (844-723-3764). Calls or texts to 844-SaferOH (844-723-3764) are answered by analysts in the Ohio Homeland Security’s Threat Assessment and Prevention (TAP) Unit. When action is needed, the TAP Unit immediately forwards information to local school officials, local law enforcement agencies and others, if necessary.TAP Unit analysts always follow up quickly with the affected school and law enforcement agencies to make sure that the incident is investigated, action is taken and the outcome is tracked. The assurance that their calls or texts cannot be traced and that serious, proper action will be taken to end the threat is helping to persuade young people to take a stand against school violence
Here are items that came out of the most recent administrative meeting that will be important to know:
Lunch procedure of visitation at Nolley will change starting Monday February 26. Unfortunately there will be no more visitors permitted at lunch time due to the most recent issues and safety concerns.
New interior classroom door additional locking mechanisms will be placed in all classrooms over the next few weeks by our Director of Services.
All windows will be visibly numbered so that any safety force personnel can quickly determine if a specific room or area of the building is where a concern might be.
The investigation of double doors at the single point of entrance is being investigated to determine the feasibility and cost to put into the buildings.
I know that sometime it is difficult to talk with your child so our administrators have put together some very quick links to information that may be helpful to you in doing so.
There are a variety of resources available to help parents talk to their children about school violence. Please see the links below, which have been compiled by our district guidance team, school psychologists, and administrators.
School Violence Prevention Tips - National Association of School Psychologists
Brief Facts and Tips - School Violence - National Association of School Psychologists
Helping Kids in the Wake of a School Shooting - Child and Family Guidance
PBS Parents - Talking to Kids About News
How to Talk to Children About Difficult News - American Psychological Association
Helping Students in Troubling Times - American School Counselor Association
Helping Kids After a Shooting - American School Counselor Association. There are a variety of resources available through this link.
Trauma-Informed Practices Benefit All Students - Edutopia
When Students are Traumatized - Teacher Wellness - Edutopia
A variety of resources including those from the Mayo Clinic and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security - National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement.