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A message from Superintendent of Schools Marie Wiles

December 17, 2012—Throughout the day today, school leaders have received numerous e-mails and phone calls from concerned parents following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Parents want to know that our schools are safe and that appropriate security procedures are in place at all levels. Please know that we take these concerns very seriously.

Earlier this morning, district leaders met with local first responders from fire, law enforcement, and emergency management services to reinforce our ability to collaborate and coordinate efforts in the event of an emergency. Guilderland Central School District has a good plan in place to deter school violence and to deal with emergency situations should they arise.

Following is a list of many of the things we do at Guilderland Central School District to ensure the safety of students and staff:

Within each school, all staff members are required to wear an identification badge at all times.

All new employees, including substitutes, are fingerprinted before they are hired and extensive background checks on done by the State Education Department and FBI.

Only one entrance is open in each building throughout the day for public access. All other doors with outside access are locked.

All school building main entrances are equipped with video cameras.

At every building, visitors are required to sign-in and wear nametags throughout the length of their stay.

At the elementary schools, visitors may only enter into the school building after ringing a doorbell at the main entrance. Main office personnel are able to see and/or speak with an individual via closed circuit camera before they are “buzzed” into the building.

At the middle and high schools, visitors are welcomed at the main entrance by “greeters,” who monitor all guests as they enter and exit the building.

As required by law, students practice 12 fire drills a year. In addition, all school buildings practice a lockdown/shelter-in-place drill at least once a year.

Building Crisis Teams meet regularly to ensure that plans are in place to support all members of the school community in the event of an emergency or crisis.

School leaders work closely with the Guilderland Police Department and Guilderland Fire Department throughout the school year.

A full-time School Resource Officer from the Guilderland Police Department is stationed at Guilderland High School and is available to provide support at any district building when needed.

Trained monitors are in place in all seven school buildings to supervise in areas such as cafeterias, hallways, and parking lots.

District staff use and practice the same Incident Command System of crisis management that is used by police and fire officials for better communication and cooperation during an emergency.

School building and office staff routinely participate in tabletop exercises related to various emergency situations.

GCSD has on staff a part-time risk management coordinator from the Capital Region BOCES to provide training, resource materials, and safety/security coordination district-wide.

In 2009, the district received a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to improve and strengthen its emergency management plans—the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) grant. Funds were used to conduct drills, exercises, and vulnerability assessments; train staff and students on emergency response procedures; improve food safety defense and infectious disease plans; update written procedures and plans; develop protocols for effective communication during a crisis; and purchase emergency supplies and equipment.

 

GCSD is always seeking to evaluate and improve our security—and continually does so. In the days and weeks ahead, school leaders will be revisiting all of the items listed above to ensure that they are being implemented as required. In addition, school leaders will continue to focus on building a stronger school community through communication, respect and responsibility.

On a related note, I would ask that you take time to discuss with your children the responsibility of letting others (parents, teachers, administrators, and/or law enforcement) know of any potential concerns that they may have or have heard of regarding any threatening individual(s)/situation(s). This is never easy for students, however, it is probably one of the best sources of information to help maintain a safe environment. Ultimately, we will have to work together to maintain a safe community environment. Continuing this dialogue can help us stay safe as our community grows and our society changes in future years.

If you have any questions or concerns about the information above, please do not hesitate to contact me at 456-6200, ext. 3102. You can also learn more about school safety by reading the district’s annual Project S.A.V.E. plan (PDF).

On behalf of the entire Guilderland Central School District community, I would like to once again extend our deepest sympathies to the children, families, and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

 

Resources for parents & educators
As coverage of this story continues, many students may have questions or concerns about what they are seeing or hearing on the news. Following are several resources that may be helpful in talking with your child about the tragic events in Newtown, CT:

PBS Talking with Kids About the News

Talking to Kids about School Violence (NYU Child Study Center)

Tools for students, parents, and teachers from the National Association of School Psychologists

 

 

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