Tuesday, June 18th, 2024

C Children First by Becky Adams
Safety First


In a world of exploding information, educators are expected to make multiple decisions daily. They must be ready to teach their students, stay up to date on their curricula, take the emotional temperature of growing students, grade daily assignments, check to make sure children have lunch money, solve friend issues, communicate with parents, solve playground disputes, send students to the nurse for specially prescribed medications, prepare for administrative observations, and encourage students to sign up for after school clubs.

After taking care of these and other issues daily, one more thing takes precedence over all the others: SCHOOL SAFETY! It has always been the number one goal for school divisions, but in today's world, the general public is particularly attuned to it. For the past 25 years, they have been impacted by schools across the country that have experienced violence: Columbine High School (1999), Sandy Hook Elementary (2012), Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (2018), and Robb Elementary  (2022). Their stories cry out from the news media, and we wonder why these and many other tragedies have happened.

What are our schools and governments doing to make our schools as safe as possible? The City of Chesapeake established a Chesapeake Public Schools Security Task Force in 2018, comprised of individuals representing the City Manager's office, Police Department, Fire Department, Fire Marshalls, Sherrif's Department, mental health professionals, Commonwealth Attorney's office, School Board, City Council, and school administrators. Research was done on many of the school shootings around the country to analyze school vulnerabilities and suggestions for the future. Of course, some security measures cannot be made public for long-term safety reasons.  

If you have visited a Chesapeake school building in the past few years, you have experienced the new saftey protocol for entering the building. All doors are locked. Visitors must press an exterior button and show an I.D. to a camera before receiving permission to enter. Several schools have been equipped with vestibules-transparent walls between the front door and the front hall. All elementary students wear identification badges around their necks from when they get on the school bus until they arrive home. The plan is to have those same badges for all middle and high school students in the next school year. This identifies who is supposed to be in each building. Communication, which is absolutely critical, has been enhanced between classrooms, administration, and first responders. First responders can access digital floor plans for all buildings. Lighting, signage, public address systems, and medical equipment (AED machines and stop-the-bleeding kits) are in all schools. All schools train all teachers, staff, and administrators, and run student drills. Police officers are assigned to all high schools and middle schools, and sheriff deputies are assigned to cover elementary schools.

A public information meeting will be held May 22 at 6:00 P.M. at Western Branch High School for anyone interested in learning more about school safety or making suggestions to the task force. For details, access www.cpschools.com/safety or call 757-546-3140.