As a follow up to another tragic active shooter incident at a high school near Houston, Texas, I would like to update our community on our efforts in Goochland County to continuously improve the safety of our facilities. As you may remember from my message in February or may have seen in our School Board presentation in April, securing our facilities, educating our students and staff, and consistently monitoring our progress have always been priorities for our division. Events of the past few months nationwide have only served to create more urgency in taking action to realize those priorities.
This summer will include some of the most extensive work toward improving facility safety and updating our division procedures for crisis response. We recently concluded a survey of all division facilities to prepare for summer and fall installation of video monitored key card access as well as door position controls in all schools. The key card access will provide our division and the Goochland Sheriff’s Office with secure and dynamic facility access, allowing us to establish strict parameters on access and the ability to quickly secure facilities. Door position controls will be installed on exterior doors at all facilities, and will alert staff immediately in the event of an exterior door being left open. We are also preparing to update and modernize the telephone/intercom system at the secondary complex to enhance communications.
At our middle and high school, we are working to install a transaction window in the lobby area near the main entrance this summer. This transaction window will allow our staff and families to more efficiently handle routine transactions at our schools-dropping off items for students, sign in and sign out-while reducing traffic in our office areas and thereby minimizing risk associated with individuals moving past the secure lobby areas of the middle and high schools. You may have already noticed that our staff now greet all guests and request identification upon arrival at our door buzzer systems in all schools.
A committee of leaders, parents, and law enforcement officials has convened to discuss potential changes to the parking and traffic flow at the secondary complex. Moving the student parking lot from the back of the school to the front of the school is being discussed as this change will allow for a single point of entry into the school for our students and visitors. Associated changes for morning and afternoon drop off and pick up are also being reviewed. We recognize the need to improve safety and traffic flow for our community, and we are exploring practical options for improvement in 2018-2019.
We anticipate Board of Supervisors approval of a budget amendment in the weeks ahead that will provide funding to add two new positions to our division that are intended to support student safety. A full-time counselor will be added to the high school, allowing our division to employ 2 full time counselors at GMS and three full time counselors at GHS to provide vital social-emotional support. We have also established a full time School Security Officer position that will support all dimensions of safety at the secondary complex. The Goochland Sheriff’s Office is working with us to re-establish the second School Resource Officer position in our division. We are grateful for the support of our Board of Supervisors, Sheriff’s Office, and all county agencies as we work together to implement meaningful change toward enhanced safety in our division.
In addition to this ongoing and upcoming work, we will update our crisis plan, host tabletop exercises, implement SafeSchools training for division and building leadership, and add safety training to the new teacher induction process this year. Our newly formed Safety and Facilities Task Force will meet for the first time in June, and their work will be made available to the public for feedback as they meet bimonthly and discuss ongoing concerns and plan for the short and long term future of our safe facilities here in Goochland County Public Schools.
The safety and well-being of our students and our staff is, and will continue to be, a priority for our school division. Engaged learning and the results our community has come to expect cannot take place without a safe and nurturing school environment. I will repeat what I mentioned in my February message. Perhaps the most important part of safety is one that does not come in the form of training, technology, or devices: the relationships that our staff have with our students and their families. For every tragedy that has taken place in America’s schools, hundreds more have surely been prevented because of staff members who are committed to knowing students and showing they care. Having a culture of support in our division, a culture in which our students and families know that they can reach out to us with any concern, is one of our most effective measures to ensure safety. Please discuss with your child the importance of telling an adult if they ever feel threatened, witness threatening behavior, or have any concern about safety for themselves or others. We are always available to respond. Please also know that we welcome reports from parents and community members as well. Call our school counselors or principals at any time if you have any concerns.
Thank you, as always, for what you do to support our students and our amazing school division.
Jeremy Raley, Superintendent