Feb
15
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 15-02-2018

ap18045839657957_10797348_ver1-0_640_360Today is another sad day for America, our children, and our schools.  I wish to begin by extending my deepest sympathy to the community of Parkland, Florida, and its schools.  The thoughts and prayers of many at Ellendale School are with you.

Tragedies of this nature shake us to our core and force us to confront even the unimaginable thought of “what if this was our school?”.   What happened in Parkland can happen anywhere.  I used to believe it could only happen in “those” schools, but over the years since Columbine (1999) I have continually been shown that it does not matter.  School shootings have taken place in urban and rural schools, small and large, diverse and predominately white communities like ours.  The need to ensure all schools are safe is something every school is addressing.

In Ellendale, over the course of the past 20 years, we have done many things to help ensure the safety of our students.  None of these are a 100% guarantee of their safety, but nothing is.  Here are some measures we take to ensure our students remain safe:

  • Physical Security
    • Exterior doors are locked for most of the school day to only allow entrance to the school in a controlled manner.  During school hours, visitors must enter Door #1 and be validated to enter using a door access system.
    • Video Surveillance is installed throughout the complex to monitor activity and is also available to law enforcement when needed.

** Physical security in my view is honestly the easy part and is in no way fool-proof.  It provides a simple line of protection but anyone could find a way into the school if they were determined.

  • Planning to Respond
    • Emergency Response Planning- Our school has an extensive emergency response plan that outlines how we will address not only actions like what happened in Parkland but also accidents, snow days, tornadoes, and even gas leaks. This manual was developed and is maintained in cooperation with Law Enforcement, Fire, EMS, DC Emergency Management, and other community leaders.
    • Response Team – More important than the plan is practicing the plan. The school has an Emergency Response Team that meets monthly to review aspects of the plan, practice scenarios, and make changes to the plan as needed.

** Nobody wants to think about any tragedy or accident occurring at a school.  Commonly incidents at our school have nothing to do with physical security measures.  However, severe weather, accidents on the playground, and student illnesses are common and the fact that we practice for these incidents is beneficial.

 

  • Relationships
    • The People – Ellendale School has many professionals in place to help students work through tough times. These are teachers, counselors, administrators, bus drivers, custodians, everyone.  Our staff receives training on how to stop bullying, identifying suicide risks, and how to create positive relationships with our students.  Our daily interactions with kids is by far the most import way to keep our school safe.
    • Kiononia – This is a program in our high school that organizes students into families. These cross-grade families then engage in team building and relationship building activities two times a month.
    • Positive Behavioral Support – These come under many names, but you may have heard of MTSS-B, Nurtured Heart, Love & Logic, or the Parenting Professor. All are tools and means we have deployed to improve our relationships with students and improve how we deal with students not making good choices.

Providing a safe school both emotionally and physically is an important task.  Being safe in our school is not as simple as locking the door or putting an armed guard on the sidewalk.  It begins by purposefully working to improve relationships between students and the adults in the building.  Students and families need to have strong support systems around them and not feel afraid to ask for help.  In fact, all students need to be comfortable sharing any concern with an adult.  That way we, the adults, can act before a tragedy like what happened in Parkland takes place here.