By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough/Southborough – A panel of emergency personnel and school district administrators recently presented “Making the Connection: Safe Schools, Safe Community” at Algonquin Regional High School. Addressing parent concerns in this forum was timely after the Parkland, Fla. school shooting, although district discussions have been ongoing with annual improved protocols and practices.
The panel comprised of Superintendent of Northborough Southborough Public Schools Christine Johnson; Assistant Superintendent Gregory Martineau; Northborough Fire Chief David Parente; Northborough Police Chief William Lyver, Jr.; Northborough School Resource Officer Michael Bisset; Southborough Fire Chief Joseph Mauro; Southborough Police Chief Kenneth Paulhus; and Southborough School Resource Officer Kevin Landry. School principals were also present.
Johnson quoted former Governor Deval Patrick’s statement of January 16, 2014, “No child will be able to succeed academically if they don’t feel safe in school. No teacher will be able to teach at their best if they aren’t confident there’s a plan in place to ensure their school is well prepared for an emergency.”
The importance of communication, making connections and building relationships with students and parents as part of the foundation of a safe school were repeated throughout the evening.
“When we see a police cruiser at our schools, it very rarely means that there’s an incident that they are investigating,” said Johnson. “Rather, they are making connections with our students so our students are feeling that they are accessible to them and safe.”
The research based ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate) safety protocols in the event of an intruder with a weapon have been in place in the district and drills are performed two to four times a year. Drills are progressive based on age groups. They also help older, more independent students to keep themselves safe everywhere and give them choices when they may encounter an unsafe situation. Improvements are made based on drill feedback.
Mary E. Finn Elementary School Principal Clayton Ryan said, “If you see something, say something and we’ll do something about it. Kids have an active voice. It’s not just staff making schools safe, students are as well.”
A parent questioned how the district was addressing students during drills who may have behavioral, mobility, hearing or other issues.
“We are aware that individual students need individual assistance from time to time given their circumstances,” Johnson said. “We also accessed a student specific protocol that we are going through student by student, who we have identified may need special supports.”
Parents should register for Code Red alerts through the town website as that is the official emergency notification system, and were reminded to allow emergency personnel to do their job in the event of an incident.
The district plans to expand its DARE program and establish an anonymous safety tip line.
Various levels of collaboration are needed and Johnson encourages parents to continue to share their thoughts and concerns.
View the entire presentation at www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJFT_-pIAPk and all district school safety readiness information under the Parent link at www.nsboro.k12.ma.us.