Safe Schools, Safe Students

​I had ended my last blog entry by referencing NBAU (Not Business As Usual) with the intention of using that as a segue to my next post. However, I am going to put that topic on the backburner for the time being and instead focus on school safety.

As you might know, in the past I have done ConnectED call-outs regarding school safety with the majority of them centered on safe driving and walking to school. To start this school year, I did call-outs again on that subject since we are at capacity with our enrollment, have the middle schoolers with us, and have more student drivers on campus. This increase in enrollment obviously has led to an increase in traffic on and around the campus, so that is another area where we continue to focus our safety efforts. As such, it is imperative that you follow the arrows in the visitor lot as it is now for one-way traffic only. And to help maintain the flow of traffic, I thank everyone for their cooperation in pulling all the way to the front of the kiss-and-ride: this has helped us to keep traffic moving and reduce back-ups. I would greatly appreciate it if you could refrain from picking up on Lobo and then making a U-turn there; rather, if you pick up your student while in the queue, please either go through the stadium lot to turn around or proceed through the moving lane of the kiss-and-ride.

With the increase in housing around the campus, we also need to be mindful about accessing and leaving John Champe High School. First, it bears repeating that JCHS is a no-walk zone. Students will ride their bicycles because we have bike racks on campus or will walk because there are crosswalks, but the fact remains we are a no-walk zone. Regardless, I realize that students will walk and even more so, that community members will utilize the crosswalks after hours, so it is imperative that we make sure we remain vigilant when the crosswalk lights are activated, that we check the crosswalks before turning, and that we adhere to the posted speed limit on North Star. When you have pedestrians, inexperienced drivers, distracted drivers, and construction traffic sharing the road, we have to work especially hard  to mitigate the risk that is there.

But we work to keep students safe in other ways which you may or may not be aware of, and so I thought this would be a good time to go over some of them. First, code requires that we conduct a fire drill once a week for the first month of school. And in conjunction with that, we also conduct two lockdown drills during the first 20 days of school. Also during the month of September, we practice our Emergency Response Plan, a drill where we practice evacuating the school. After that, we have one fire drill a month for the remainder of the year, two more lockdown drills, a tornado drill, and an earthquake drill. In addition, in the past we have also worked in conjunction with the Loudoun County Sherriff’s Office to participate with their K9 units in drills as well.

Next, when we are presented with certain crises or the potential of a crisis, we have established protocols we follow in those instances to best ensure student safety. Whether it is a threat assessment team, a crisis intervention team, or some other group, we utilize a team approach to draw on the experience and expertise of a range of individuals to help determine the best course of action. For example, we have non-teaching professionals on staff who are directly charged with ensuring a safe learning environment. First, our Safety and Security Specialist, Brian Elliott, handles a myriad of responsibilities to ensure student safety. He also works closely with our School Resource Officer, Deputy Justin Payne, on a variety of issues. We are also fortunate to have a probation officer in the building, Madison Ross, and as a part of our security team. Lastly, we also have professionals on staff who strive to keep our students emotionally safe. For example, we have Jennifer Thomas, our social worker, and Sarah Apgar Painter, our school psychologist, to complement our counseling team in times of crisis.

There are other, more specific things that we have in place to maintain a safe learning environment, but I hope that this broad overview is insightful!

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