As we prepare to welcome our students back from summer vacation, I wanted to provide you with an update on the work that we have been doing this summer to make improvements in safety, building security, and crisis planning. Enhancements have been made as we have hired additional staff, made improvements to our building infrastructure with the installation of equipment and other capital investments, and have implemented proactive processes through collaborative planning with the Goochland Sheriff’s Office and Goochland Fire-Rescue and Emergency Services.
This year, with the support of the Goochland Sheriff’s Office, we will have two full time School Resource Officers at the secondary complex. Deputy Ryan Leabough will be assigned to the high school and Deputy Jason Anderson will be assigned to the middle school. Additionally, our school division has hired a School Security Officer, Mr. Shawn Schwartz, who will be on campus to assist in supervision, crisis planning, and overall school security efforts. Through an effort to provide additional socio-emotional support to our students and our families, we have re-structured our school counseling departments at both the middle school and the high school in order to ensure that counselors can spend more time focusing on providing more individualized support.
Infrastructure and Capital Improvements
We will be enhancing the physical security of our facilities through a three phase process that includes the installation of equipment that monitors door access, the installation of door position controls, re-keying all exterior locks, and installing cameras at all elementary 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. The first phase of this project is expected to be completed at the secondary complex by the start of school. Phase I work has started at our elementary schools as technicians are running wire and conduit to minizime disruptions when school begins.
As you visit our campuses, you will find that there are many other safety improvements including a new parking lot and parent pick up loop at Byrd Elementary.
This summer, we conducted a walk through of our facilities with representatives from the Sheriff’s Office and Fire-Rescue to determine if there were additional strategies that we could implement to make improvements to the safety and security of our sites. Recommendations were made regarding changes to the landscaping at our secondary complex that will increase visibility of the parking lots from inside the school. The large junipers in the front of the building reduced visibility and also provided a space for items to be concealed. As a result, they have been removed and new, lower profile vegetation will be planted in their place.
At our middle and high school, a transaction window in the lobby area near the main entrance will be installed by the end of September. 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. We will continue to ask visitors and guests to announce who they are and the reason for their visit prior to being allowed entry to the building.
Our safety and security initiatives also include many proactive processes, trainings, and procedures that have been developed in collaboration with our division’s administrative staff, local first responders, and members of our School Safety Task Force which includes stakeholders from our community including parents, citizens, and representatives from multiple agencies. One of these initiatives includes training for our faculty, students, and parents regarding our threat assessment process. The website for the parent program is www.schoolthreatassessment.com Enter the parent code to begin: pncwub
Other proactive measures that will implemented for the start of the school year include:
- New anonymous reporting system for ALL schools regarding threats or bullying – reports can be received via text message, web site, e-mail, or phone
- Revision of crisis drill processes
- Update of school and division-wide crisis plans
- Training for administrative staff on site surveys and incident command
- Training for employees regarding treatment of injuries (bleed management) during a crisis
- Initiatives to building positive, proactive relationships with students, families, and community
In addition to the safety and security initiatives at our school sites, we have also made some significant improvements in the safety within our transportation department. This year, for the first time ever, we will be able to monitor the location and speed of every bus and car that we have on the road. This active GPS monitoring will allow us to respond quickly to an emergency with specific GPS coordinates. In addition to monitoring by our school division staff, officials in our county emergency operations center are able to access this information on all our vehicles that are transporting students.
When I speak to drivers, one of the safety issues that is most concerning to them is when motorists do not obey their red flashing lights when they are picking up and dropping off students. We are currently working in collaboration with local law enforcement and our partners in county government to explore options that will allow us install cameras on the exterior of our buses and levy fines when motorist disobey our traffic signals. New buses that we purchase in the future will have flashing lights on the front and rear bumper that will activate when drivers make a stop. We purchased four new 77 passenger buses this year with this feature. Check out one of these buses in action by clicking here.
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 look forward to a smooth start to another exciting year for our students, staff, and families. Thank you, as always, for what you do to support our students and our amazing school division!
Jeremy Raley, Superintendent