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Dear Calvert County Public Schools Community:
As the Connecticut community surrounding Sandy Hook Elementary School mourns and as we mourn with them, there is a great deal of anxiety and fear in and around schools across this country. We all understand that tragedies such as the one in Connecticut can happen anywhere in this country, and, indeed, anywhere in the world. Because of that knowledge, the safety of the students, staff, and community members in our schools is our first responsibility. We in the school system work throughout the year on keeping schools as safe and secure as humanly possible.
Unfortunately, in these uncertain times, rumors are circulating in our schools and community. Rest assured that we investigate, often in conjunction with law enforcement, every credible threat to student, staff and school safety we receive.
During the past weekend, we conferred with local law enforcement and have asked for increased police presence around our schools this week and after the holidays. The school system is fortunate to have an excellent working relationship with Sheriff Evans and his Department and Lieutenant Stephens and the State Police Barracks.
We have also been communicating with school principals and staff about the existing protocols we have in place and to encourage heightened vigilance. While we must be constantly on guard and work tirelessly to protect the students and adults in our schools, we must not unduly alarm children or create an atmosphere that causes them to become anxiety ridden. The same is true for staff members. Over the next several weeks, we will continue to review all of our safety and security plans. Our efforts in the area of school safety and security have several prongs. They include:
Memorandums of Understanding exist between the school system and state and local law enforcement agencies that address the placement of Liaison Officers in our schools. These Memorandums also outline the working relationships in the event of any kind of emergency. The development and review of the Memorandums allow the school system and law enforcement agencies to review every aspect of emergency response and make changes as needed, as well as when new ways of response are identified in the security and law enforcement fields.
We conduct training for administrators and staff on a regular basis on how to handle all types of emergencies that could occur within and around our schools. These include, but are not limited to, situations involving active shooter or intruders, weather-related emergencies, and fire. Training is also conducted in Calvert County Public Schools by federal, state and county law enforcement agencies.
We execute several kinds of emergency drills with students and staff in our buildings on a monthly basis. Certain drills, because of their sensitivity, are conducted in the absence of students.
We conduct an assessment of school emergency plans at the beginning of each school year and as part of the debriefing process after any type of emergency. All plans are reviewed by the Department of Student Services. In addition, school emergency plans are reviewed by the school staff in each building.
We investigate all threats to schools, students, and/or employees through the school system; law enforcement and other government agencies provide assistance as appropriate. When information comes to the attention of school staff that is unrelated to the school but may affect an individual, family or community, we immediately communicate that information to law enforcement.
Since September, the staff members that direct our School Facilities, Construction, and Student Services departments have been reviewing our buildings to determine what changes and modifications are feasible to provide even more security. This effort is complicated since we have so many different types of school facility designs that have been built over the past 60 or more years.
We are in the process of examining what we can and must do about internal doorways and openings given the various types of structures. We will also review the effectiveness and possibility of installing equipment and making modifications to each school’s front entrance to limit the open access we currently provide.
We have schools which were designed as open-space classroom concepts of which some have been modified to provide better instructional delivery and limited security. Other facilities that still contain open space classroom concepts are in the planning stages for future modification. We have some schools that have open access to classrooms via corridors. These facilities are being studied to provide security measures, which will be accomplished in conformance to federal, state and local building, ADA and life safety codes. Needless to say, there are varying conditions that will require different levels of consideration, all of which will be studied in concert with those findings rendered as a result of this most recent event.
In the midst of these events that have so tragically traumatized our neighbors in Connecticut and struck fear in all of us, we cannot lose sight that we must provide our students with a safe, calm learning environment where they have a sense of both security and freedom.
Jack R. Smith, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools