By Elaine Pinckney
After the outbreak of school violence in Parkland, Fla., and our own threats closer to home in Vermont, I’m reaching out to assure the Champlain Valley School District community that the safety and well-being of our students is our top priority. While statistically, school shootings remain rare, these horrific incidents focus our attention on critical security needs and cause us to re-evaluate our safety plans
In the Champlain Valley School District, the work of improving our school’s safety and emergency preparedness was well underway prior to these recent events. Earlier this year, the entire administrative team met with Rob Evans, the Vermont Agency of Education’s school safety expert, to review our current practices.
Although CVSD has a vast majority of the needed systems in place, Mr. Evans recommended that we develop a high-priority checklist and identify specific challenges. In the weeks that have followed, each school administrative team has worked with Mr. Evans to undertake an assessment of their own school’s safety and emergency preparedness, to assess the unique challenges at each site and to develop a plan based on the specific results of each assessment.
Currently, each CVSD school has an active and engaged school safety team that meets monthly to focus on continuous improvements in school safety. In addition to school personnel, committee members include local emergency responders from police and fire departments and the Vermont State Police. The commitment to this deep collaborative work has forged relationships that go well beyond polite familiarity and have evolved to close professional teaming and high-level cooperation.
At the central office, we are focused on developing a mass communication system, a visitor management system, a universal set of crisis commands, a camera surveillance policy and a systematic plan for connecting with our community resources.
We understand that safety goes beyond the physical and applies to mental and emotional well-being as well. At CVSD, our goal is to be as prepared as possible for any emergency while continuing to provide a welcoming space for our students and their families. We take enormous pride in the close relationships that exist between and among our students, their families and the faculty and staff in each of our schools. This is an area that is nurtured and developed by design. We know it makes a difference.
I know I speak for our board, principals, teachers and all our dedicated staff when I say that we will make every effort to meet our security needs while continuing to foster a rich educational experience for your children in the kind and supportive community that they have come to trust.