At Newton Public Schools we strive to provide the most enriching environment to educate our students, and we also recognize that the school environment must be safe and secure.
To this end Newton Public Schools has implemented an emergency response and crisis management program. The program includes working with staff at all levels of Newton Public Schools, as well as with our community partners--Newton Police, Newton Fire, and Newton Health and Human Services, whose contributions are gratefully appreciated and acknowledged.
Regarding Safety and Security within
Newton Public Schools
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What does Newton Public Schools currently do to ensure safety and security within its schools and the district?
Citywide Safety Team
Newton Public Schools has a district and citywide safety team responsible for drafting emergency policy and procedures, training staff, and assembling to determine a course of action in times of crisis. The team meets monthly and includes representatives from the city, school nurses, police department, school department, experienced psychologists, and school and community based mental health professionals.
School Specific Crisis Team
Each individual school also has a crisis team that includes parents, teachers, staff and administrators from that school. The team meets early on in the year to review procedures and think ahead about resources. The School Crisis Team also meets as needed to evaluate and respond to challenging community situations, plan next steps and offer support to children, parents and staff.
The district has established protocols for dealing with a range of crises and emergencies. Each school and classroom has a School and Emergency Response flip book with step-by-step directions for responding to a variety of situations. Staff are trained to handle these situations, with regular practice of fire, shelter in place, and lockdown drills, as well as evacuation procedures.
Schools practice fire drills a minimum of four times a year. All schools have a plan for evacuation, taking attendance and assembling students safely.
Schools practice evacuation drills once a year. Students and staff quickly exit the school building if there is a hazard inside such as a fire, bomb threat, or chemical spill. Each school has an offsite evacuation location that they practice walking to in the event of an evacuation. The school principal, administrators and the police department are informed and assist in the practice. Bus evacuation is also practiced each year in the K-12 levels, three times a year at the elementary level.
Lockdown drills are practiced at all schools a minimum of once a year. Students are protected from an intruder within the school building by remaining silent and invisible behind closed, locked classroom doors; windows on classroom doors have shades. If the security threat is outside the school, exterior doors will be secured.
Like lockdowns, Shelter-In-Place drills are practiced at least once a year at all schools. Students and staff are sheltered in the building if there is a danger in the community outside the building. For example, if a bank robbery occurred in the area or an airborne hazard of chemicals was released from a transportation accident, schools would use a Shelter-In-Place rather than a lockdown.
Grants from the federal government have allowed Newton Public Schools to implement a number of security and safety improvements including shades on classroom windows, locks on classroom doors and keyless entry to buildings for staff. A two-year grant to the Newton Police Department, called Secure Our Schools, funded security cameras at the high schools, replacement of broken exterior doors, and installation of emergency and exterior lighting. We continue to work closely with the police department on safety and security measures and seek grant support for security upgrades.
Training and Resources for Staff
Each year, staff are trained in Emergency Procedures to ensure that new principals and staff, as well as veteran staff, are ready to handle any emergency. At the beginning of the year, administrators review with their staff emergency procedures for their school. The Readiness and Emergency Management grant Newton Public Schools received a few years ago supported the development of standard protocols, which are posted in each classroom. Staff participated in drills and exercises to practice emergency response. The Safe Schools Healthy Students grant from the US Department of Education not only funded safety upgrades in the buildings but also provided significant mental health training for staff and parents over the last four years.
How does Newton Public Schools communicate in the event of a crisis or emergency?
Newton Public Schools is currently using SchoolMessenger, a leading community notification system, to provide a quick alert messaging service for parents and staff. SchoolMessenger helps Newton Public Schools' ability to communicate regularly with parents and staff 24-hours a days, in multiple languages, using voice messages, e-mail, and more.
If I’m concerned that I’m not receiving messages from the school, what can I do?
Contact your child’s school to confirm that the correct information is entered into our Student Information System. This contact information is transferred into School Messenger. We are in the process of making it possible for parents to update personal information themselves and will keep you informed as this change is implemented.
What mental health resources are available within the Newton Public Schools?
In Newton Public Schools, we care deeply about students’ social and emotional health. A counseling grant received in 2007 through the Department of Education helped us increase the full time employment of social workers and mental health staff at the elementary level. This grant lasted until 2010. Since then, the district, recognizing the need for these staff, picked up this cost and increased the full time employment of psychologists and social workers in our schools. We are proud to say that every school has at least one full-time psychologist or social worker.
Who does Newton Public Schools partner with to ensure community safety?
The schools and community together offer a broad range of programs and therapeutic services to support students and community members in need. We have ongoing partnerships with many organizations, including:
If I have questions or concerns about safety and security at Newton Public Schools (or in general), how can I ask or share them?
Start by emailing or contacting your child’s school. The staff should be able to answer your questions and if not, will direct you to the proper channels to share your ideas or concerns. We welcome your comments and suggestions to enhance emergency preparedness at Newton Public Schools.