|May 25, 2022|
Dear NPS Families,
I write to you with great horror and tremendous sadness as our nation faces yet another tragedy in our school buildings. Our hearts go out to our fellow educators and all the students and families in Uvalde, Texas. It is incomprehensible that these tragedies, including those within the past few weeks in Buffalo and Southern California, continue to occur. For our district, it is also an important reminder that we must always be prepared and stay vigilant.
As many of our principals already shared last night and this morning with families and staff, support and resources are available to students in our school buildings today. Educators are prepared to have thoughtful and developmentally appropriate conversations with students should the situation be warranted.
The Newton Public Schools have many systems in place to ensure that our schools are safe. Research demonstrates that some of the most important safety work we do is the support of the social and emotional health of our students. We know that it is most important for students to feel connected to their school community and supported by their peers, teachers, and other trusted adults. When we create connections and support, faculty and staff can more effectively address student needs or concerns when they arise. Some of the social and emotional initiatives we have in place include:
– Signs of Suicide (SOS) curriculum and screenings of 7th, 9th, and 11th grade students
– School connectedness surveys now conducted regularly at all levels
– Social and emotional support strategies embedded in classroom routines.
– Anti-bullying curricula and reporting system
– Mental health professionals, including psychologists, counselors, or social workers in all buildings
– Close partnerships with City of Newton Health and Human Services department and outside agencies
In addition to the social and emotional efforts, we do have robust safety and security systems and protocols in place to create secure buildings. We work very closely with our city partners on prevention, preparedness and response to a wide range of scenarios. Prior to the pandemic, we completed work with an outside security expert to revise all our emergency protocols, which are aligned with current best practices in school safety and Massachusetts state guidelines. Those systems are now in place in our school buildings.
The following is a list of some (not all) of the current systems we have in place in our district and our schools:
– District-wide safety team that meets regularly to review, assess, and modify safety and crisis response protocols and procedures. The team is comprised of district, mental health, fire, police, and health department personnel.
– Building-based crisis teams focused on crisis prevention, preparedness and response at the school level
– Close partnership with police and fire departments to ensure rapid and coordinated emergency response
– Regular practice of emergency procedures, including shelter-in-place, lockdown, and hostile event protocols
– Emergency radios in all schools with direct connection to first responders
– All middle school and elementary school buildings are locked during the day. There is only one point of entry. Visitors are granted entry to the building through a buzzer system.
Please visit our Emergency Preparedness webpage for more detailed information.
We will continue to be vigilant in implementing our social and emotional support programs, as well as reviewing and modifying our safety and security procedures and protocols. It is important that we partner with you in this endeavor and ask that if you see anything that is a safety concern, please do not hesitate to contact a teacher, counselor, or administrator.
Below you will find additional support resources for your family and your students. Thank you for your understanding and support during these troubling times.
Crisis and School Safety – Talking to Children about Violence (National Association of School Psychologists)
Tips for Parents and Educators – Talking to Children about Violence (Infographic from National Association of School Psychologists)
Resiliency After Violence (Harvard Graduate School of Education)