Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of discussing with some parents how we approach maintaining as safe a school environment as possible. As a principal I always try to think like a parent, and I know that the most important job we have at HHS is keeping your children safe. Below you’ll find a summary of the various points I shared during the conversation. I know this is an issue of tremendous importance for you and wanted to make sure you had this information.
- School Resource Officer role and coordination Officers Juan Cruz (Dean Campus) and Manny Rivera (North Campus) work with school staff and students to maintain a safe school environment. Their work typically includes supporting arrival and dismissal, helping with lunch supervision, establishing a visible presence in the main offices and lobbies, and monitoring each campus’ interior and exterior cameras. Supported by Sgt Joe Garcia, our SROs are very much a part of our school community.
- Opening School Procedures- admin stand-up, teacher supervision/welcoming, homeroom Both campuses open with the same procedures. Each campus admin team holds an early morning stand-up meeting, where we briefly review the day’s schedule and events, discuss student and teacher issues, and coordinate our work for the day. All HHS teachers have a morning duty during one of our four quarters. Twenty minutes before we allow students to move to homeroom small teams of teachers and staff supervise front entrances, cafeterias, and exterior doors. We use that time to welcome students and families, to get a “pulse” on the day, and to ensure a safe and secure start to the day.
- Entering school after 8:10- “hard” entrances/lobby supervision, sign in and visitor passes. The Dean campus currently features a hard entrance- visitors must be buzzed into and out of the main office before they can enter the school building. The North Campus will have a “hard” entrance by the end of February. Until then, a member of our Student Support Team monitors the main lobby’s doors and ensures all visitors check in to the main office. Once in the main office visitors sign, their appointments are verified with receiving staff, and they are given a visitor’s badge to wear while in the building. All visitors are expected to return the badge and sign out before leaving.
- Lock Down and Shelter in Place drills, School Evacuation drills, Stop the Bleed drills Throughout the year, and in partnership with the Holyoke Fire and Police Departments, HHS conducts emergency drills during the school day. Lock Down procedures plan for the event of an on-campus or in building threat to safety. Shelter in Place procedures plan for events or issues that do not pose an immediate safety challenge but require us to keep hallways clear and the building closed to visitors (individual medical emergencies or issues that are situated in adjoining neighborhoods). School Evacuation drills plan for the event of fire alarms, gas leaks, etc…. Teachers and staff have been trained in emergency triage methods through the Stop the Bleed training that all district staff complete. Instructions, emergency bags, and mapped routes are all posted in classrooms and public spaces.
- Grade Level Teams, Shops, Academies, Freshmen Seminar, Peer Mentoring and Peer Mediation The safest schools are schools where students are known well and feel respected and loved. We have created freshmen and sophomore teams on both campuses, implemented a Freshmen Seminar course on the North Campus, strengthened the cohort model of our vocational shops on the Dean Campus, implemented career academy cohorts on the North Campus, expanded peer mentoring on the Dean Campus and peer mediation on the North Campus, and have several regularly convened student leadership groups all in the name of knowing our students well.
- Student Support team stand-up The North Campus student support team- restorative justice staff, behavior support staff, planning center staff, adjustment counselors, and administrators- gather every morning during the homeroom period (810-820) to share information, coordinate outreach and support, and identify burgeoning issues and challenges.
- Expanded counseling staff Since the fall of 2018 we have expanded our counseling and student support staffing as follows: (Student Support Room counselor, 2.5 School Adjustment Counselors, 2 GEAR UP counselors, .5 Upward Bound counselor,1 School Counselor, BRYT counselor, and 1 Early College Coach) While we have significantly expanded our counseling resources over the past two years we have some distance to travel before we are sufficiently staffed to meet our students diverse and significant needs
- Exterior and Interior Cameras Both campuses are equipped with external and internal cameras, accessible to administrators, front office staff, and our school resource officers. The cameras record 24 hours/day, 7 days/week.
- School IDs We do not require students to wear student IDs, mainly for practical purposes. The most compelling reason is that the logistics involved in requiring students to wear IDs would predictably create the need to replace hundreds of IDs on a monthly, if not a weekly basis due to students losing/misplacing them. The constant interruption this would place upon the task of teaching and learning would be significant. Schools that have similar demographics and enrollment numbers have made the same decision.
- Random Searches Beginning in the new year we will conduct random student searches at the beginning of the school day on a weekly basis. Staff will contact families by phone if their student is searched as a part of this process.
Should you have any questions, ideas or suggestions please do not hesitate to contact me.
Stephen R. Mahoney Ed.D