We have all been profoundly impacted by the tragedy recently experienced by the Parkland, Florida, community. The senseless violence and the devastating loss of human life strikes at our core given our commitment to serve and protect the public of our city. During these times, it is natural for all of us to wonder whether we are taking all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of students and staff in our schools. While there is always more work to do, we are pleased to share that there is strong communication and partnership between the Holyoke Public Schools, Holyoke Police Department and Holyoke Fire Department. Below you will find a series of proactive steps we have taken with our District-wide crisis team. This team meets monthly to receive trainings, initiate district-wide and school-based safety procedures/policies and collaborate with the city of Holyoke’s emergency personnel. The Team is comprised of staff from each school, central office personnel and representatives from Holyoke Police, Holyoke Fire and the State Police. The Team has spent the last year taking the following proactive steps:
- Establishing school-based crisis teams with broad representation from across the schools;
- Re-writing and refining school emergency plans;
- Training on school lockdown, shelter-in-place, reunification and response to bomb threats: Creating and distributing “To Go” Emergency Kits across all classrooms;
- Examining protocols for visitors across schools;
- Organizing visitor awareness training for clerks and custodians;
- Designing an incident/drill reflection process after each incident.
Moving forward, we are committed to building on these efforts by:
- Urging community members to report any threats (verbal, online, etc.) that might compromise school, student and/or staff safety to school counselors/leadership and/or Holyoke Police. We will take these threats seriously to ensure that students do not have the means to hurt themselves or others.
- Enhancing the safety/security at the entrance of our buildings. The front door is the first line of defense in the event of an active shooter and we must examine ways to fortify these entrances.
- Conducting unannounced security audits (led by Holyoke Police and Fire) to examine the implementation of our safety procedures at each school.
- Instructing Holyoke Police and Fire to conduct unannounced audits of our security procedures in the coming days and weeks.
We believe that the measures and regular communication between students, families, staff and public safety are essential in protecting our schools. While we can never eliminate risk entirely, we will exhaust every avenue to maximize security. We are committed to working together to ensure that our schools are safe and nurturing learning environments where all students can thrive. Please do not hesitate to reach out to any of us if you have additional questions, concerns or ideas about emergency planning efforts.
Alex Morse, Mayor | Stephen Zrike, Superintendent | James Neiswanger, Chief of Police |John Pond, Fire Chief