What does Newton Public Schools currently do to ensure safety and security within its schools and the district?
Citywide Safety Team
Newton Public Schools has a district safety team responsible for drafting emergency policy and procedures, training staff, and assembling to determine a course of action in times of citywide crisis. The team meets monthly and includes representatives from the city, school nursing staff, police department, school department, experienced psychologists, and school and community based mental health professionals.
School Specific Safety Teams
Each individual school also has a safety team that includes administrators, teachers, staff and parents from that school. The team meets periodically throughout the year to review procedures and plan for emergency readiness. The school safety team also meets as needed to evaluate and respond to challenging community situations, plan next steps and offer support to children, parents and staff.
The district has established protocols for addressing a range of crises and emergencies. Each school and classroom has a School and Emergency Response flip book with step-by-step directions for responding to a variety of situations. Staff is trained to handle these situations and regularly practice procedures such as evacuation, shelter in place, and lockdown.
Evacuation - Schools practice fire drills a minimum of four times a year. Students and staff quickly exit the school building if there is a hazard inside such as a fire, bomb threat, or chemical spill. Each school has an offsite evacuation location that they can walk to in the event of a prolonged evacuation. The school principal, administrators and the police department are informed and assist in the practice. Bus evacuation is also practiced at least once a year in the K-12 levels (three times a year at the elementary level.)
Lockdown - Lockdown drills are practiced at all schools each year. Students are protected from an intruder within the school building by remaining silent and invisible behind closed, locked classroom doors; shades are drawn on windows and doors. If the security threat is outside the school, exterior doors are secured.
Shelter-In-Place - Like lockdowns, Shelter-in-Place drills are practiced at least once a year at all schools. Students and staff are sheltered in the building if there is a danger in the community outside the building. For example, if a bank robbery occurred in the area or an airborne hazard of chemicals was released from a transportation accident, schools would use a Shelter-in-Place rather than a lockdown.
Grants from the federal government have allowed Newton Public Schools to implement a number of security and safety improvements including shades on classroom windows, locks on classroom doors and keyless entry to buildings for staff. A two-year grant to the Newton Police Department, called Secure Our Schools, funded security cameras at the high schools, replacement of broken exterior doors, and installation of emergency and exterior lighting. We continue to work closely with the police department on safety and security measures and seek grant support for security upgrades.
Training and Resources for Staff
Each year, staff are trained in Emergency Procedures to ensure that new principals and staff, as well as veteran staff, are prepared to handle any emergency. At the beginning of the year, administrators review with their staff emergency procedures for their school. The Readiness and Emergency Management grant Newton Public Schools received a few years ago supported the development of standard protocols, which are available in each classroom. Staff participate in drills and exercises to practice emergency response. The Safe Schools Healthy Students grant from the US Department of Education not only funded safety upgrades in the buildings but also provided significant mental health training for staff and parents over the last four years.
How does Newton Public Schools communicate in the event of a crisis or emergency?
Newton Public Schools is currently using Skylert from SchoolMessenger, a leading community notification system, to provide a quick alert messaging service for families and staff. Skylert allows us to communicate with families and staff 24-hours a day, in multiple languages, using voice messages, e-mail, and more. Skylert closely integrates with Skyward, Newton's Student Information System. Parents can update their contact information through Family Access.
To verify and update your contact information as well as select options on how you would like to be notified in the vent of an emergency, please log into Skyward's Family Access and click on the Skylert tab. Alternatively, please contact your child’s school to confirm that the correct information is entered into Skyward, our Student Information System.
What Mental Health Resources are available within the Newton Public Schools?
In Newton Public Schools, we value students’ social and emotional learning, in addition to academic learning. This dual emphasis is shared by all staff who work in all of our schools. In addition, we are currently implementing a multi-year federal School Climate Transformation grant focused on increasing school resources and supporting social and emotional learning.
Who does Newton Public Schools partner with to ensure community safety?
The schools and community together offer a broad range of programs and therapeutic services to support students and community members in need. We have ongoing partnerships with many organizations, including:
Start by emailing or contacting your child’s school. The staff should be able to answer your questions and if not, will direct you to the proper channels to share your ideas or concerns.