School has been underway for about several weeks. It seems like I have heard more about the H1N1 novel influenza virus than any other education-related topic. The frequency of H1N1 in the media got me thinking more than usual about school safety in our district; consequently, I felt it would be beneficial to touch on school safety this month.
About 15 years ago when I was teaching and working on my administrative licensure, one of my administrative mentors gave me some good advice. She said, "Scott, parents expect that their children will be provided quality learning opportunities in a safe environment." As a teacher and coach who primarily focused only on "my" students and players, I admittedly had never thought about what was going on in other parts of the school district, nor had I ever taken time to think about school safety and crisis plans and drills. I guess you might say that was my first experience in "systems thinking". Since that time, I have certainly come to appreciate looking at things from a wider perspective, and her words made a lasting impression on me.
Like each school district in Minnesota, our district is required to have a safety or crisis plan. We utilize Lakes Country Service Cooperative to assist with our crisis plan and also borrow what works well in other school districts. The plan is annually updated, communicated to staff, and discussed frequently among various groups and individuals - we also plan and conduct drills for students and look for improvements that might be made.
The 2009-2010 crisis plan was recently distributed to staff. This plan contains instructions, tasks, contact information, and relatively-detailed checklists on what needs to happen in a variety of situations. Obviously, we hope we never have to put our plan to work in an actual safety situation, but we still feel it is important for our students and staff to be as prepared as possible.
To date, we have conducted several school safety drills, including three fire drills, an evacuation drill, and a relocation drill. One of the fire drills was conducted with assistance from the Morris Area Fire Department during National Fire Prevention Week. The evacuation drill was done in a segmented fashion, which means it was a scaled-back version of evacuating students in the event we need to get students out of the building as quickly as possible. When we relocated students during our evacuation/relocation drill, it was in preparation for any sort of situation that we would need to get students out of the building and keep them off campus for 30 minutes or more. I am continually impressed with our students and staff during these drills. While I am quite certain they realize we "have to" conduct the drills, students and staff still take them seriously and do their best to help us prepare for these situations.
School safety will continue to be a priority for our students and staff, and we appreciate any efforts you can give to help us keep everyone safe. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. I can be reached at (320) 589-4840 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.