All parents want to provide for and keep their children safe; however, our world has changed. At home, we lock our doors, and teach children stranger danger and how to navigate our community and schools. Inevitably, it has become the responsibility of everyone to ensure our children’s safety. As children go to school, questions arise about the safety provisions in school and at places of public gathering. Over the past few weeks, I have asked families about their concerns and questions about school safety. All parents were happy to share their concerns and questions about what Danbury Public Schools (DPS) do to protect their child.
The first question: how are adult background checks for volunteers conducted? All adults who volunteer, mentor and read or run activities go through fingerprinting and background checks. DPS is implementing a visitor identification system called Raptor that uses an adult’s license or identification card to screen their background. After individuals are cleared, they are given a badge to wear while in the building. This is the same system used successfully in New Milford, CT.
The next question concerned how parents are notified about fire or lockdown drills. These drills are part of each school’s safety plan; therefore, they are run following the school’s protocol. Questions about such drills are covered in family orientation and open-house nights. Feel free to call your child’s school with individual questions. All principals, teachers and school staff have been trained in emergency procedures and are there to help families understand them. Furthermore, all schools have recently completed a safety audit and updated their plans on what to do in an emergency.
A drill can be scary to children, though most take it in stride. For children that might become upset, help them by telling them it is similar to when your fire alarm goes off at home and you check on the situation and move outside if necessary. Families who practice fire drills at home and have a designated place to go within their yard or neighborhood have prepared their children. They most likely will not be as scared as originally thought. Parents can explain to their children that a drill is something the school does to make sure everyone is safe and that teachers and school staff are there to help. If your child shows persistent issues, contact the teacher or school social workers, who can provide more resources and help for your child.
The DPS administration, principals and Danbury police and fire departments work closely to ensure that solid plans are put into place to protect each school. Drills are often observed by police and fire personnel to confirm that plans are effective in multiple situations.
If you or your child has questions or concerns about school safety, feel free to contact Dr. Pascarella, Danbury’s superintendent, or my door is always open at the Family & Community Engagement Center, 49 Osborne St. If your child is in a school already, contact the principal and he or she can help you. Happy Spring!
Anne E. Mead, Ed. D., is the administrator for the Early Childhood Education and Extended Learning Programs of the Danbury Public Schools. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact her at 203-830-6508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.