The images on our screens this week from Parkland, Fla., were horrifying, alarming, and heart breaking. Students fleeing from a place where they should feel safe from the worries of a much bigger world, rock us back on our heels. It is never something we want to think about happening in our own district, but it is something we know we must be thinking about almost constantly.
While every school district is unique in its own characteristics, we all share one common element – a love of children and a dedication to their growth and development. It doesn’t matter if that district is located in Newtown, Conn. or Parkland, Fla. or Madison County, Ky., our goal is all the same – teach them, feed them, love them, and send them into the world prepared for success.
Safety is our highest priority. There is no way Madison County Schools can accomplish the instructional goals we have set if our students and our staff don’t feel safe while they are at school. So we work with organizations like the Kentucky Center for School Safety and local law enforcement agencies to ensure we are doing everything we can to keep our students and staff safe every day.
What measures are we taking to ensure the safety of all of our students and staff:
- Safety Audits by KCSS: Our high schools voluntarily participated in a safety audit by Kentucky Center for School safety in the fall. Our high schools received several commendations for our safety procedures during this process.
- Adult Supervision: The Kentucky Center for School Safety states that the most important aspect of maintaining student safety is effective adult supervision. In our most recent safety audits our schools received commendations for having effective adult supervision.
- Relationships with students: We have structures in all schools whereby each student is well known by at least one adult advocate in the student’s school who supports that student’s educational experience. This is a required standard from our accreditation process and Madison County completed the re-accreditation process in November and these systems were reviewed and measured.
- Our district is fortunate to work with School Resource Officers from both the Richmond and Berea police departments. Those officers are in the high schools daily and the middle schools regularly, working with students and staff. They have been instrumental in increasing the level of safety in our district.
- During the school day, any visitor to a school must enter the building through the front doors. Our schools are equipped with safety vestibules. When you enter a building, you still have to be “buzzed” through a second set of doors in order to have access to the building. These safety vestibules give our office staff a chance to find out who you are and what business you have in the building.
- In addition, we’ve also implemented the WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program in many of our elementary schools as an extra safety measure. This program allows dads to be trained to help supervise students and monitor for any safety issues throughout our schools during the school day.
- Every school in our district has a safety committee – a team of adults who work to ensure that safety is monitored and precautions are taken. Those safety committees help to develop a safety plan for their school building. Those plans include things like conducting drills for fire, weather, and even active shooter situations.
- Our schools conduct lockdown drills so students are aware of what to do in a lockdown situation and have had a chance to practice. Lockdown drills also give teachers an opportunity to talk to students about the reasons we do the drills and why they are so important.
- The majority of our staff have experienced active shooter training over the past few years. That training is conducted by the Kentucky State Police and gives the staff some idea of what can happen during an active shooter situation. Being prepared is vital – for students and staff.
- We monitor data collected by staff and student surveys. This may sound like a simple thing, but understanding how our staff and students feel about the environment where they teach and learn is important. We are pleased that Madison County teachers almost unanimously rated their school as a safe place to work and learn on the most recent TELL KY Survey. Madison County had one of the highest ratings in the state which is a testament the effort and partnerships throughout our community.
We know we do not have the luxury of a false sense of security. We must all remain vigilant and aware so we can keep our students and staff safe. We need to follow and encourage safety procedures and precautions. We need to question when something feels out of place or wrong. There is no magic fix. But we can work together to make sure our students have a safe place to learn and our staff has a safe place to work each and every day.
Please feel free to contact your child’s school or the district office with any questions or concerns about school safety.