School Safety and Emergency Response
The Newton Public Schools have robust safety and security systems and protocols in place to create secure buildings and safe school communities. We work very closely with our city partners - Newton Fire, Police, and Health and Human Services - on prevention, preparedness and response to a wide range of scenarios. For a message from Superintendent David Fleishman on the safety of our buildings, please visit this page.
Citywide Safety Team
The 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 ciytwide 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 response. 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, as well as regularly practicing procedures such as evacuation, shelter-in-place, and lockdown.
Schools practice fire drills a minimum of four times a year. Students and staff quickly exit the 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 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 with shades drawn on windows and doors. If the security threat is outside the school, exterior doors are locked.
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.
Improvements and Enhancements
We are currently working with an emergency management consultant to update all of our emergency protocols and procedures, which are aligned with current best practices in school safety and Massachusetts state guidelines. We expect these new systems to be finalized this spring and implemented next fall.
Grants from the federal government have allowed the Newton Public Schools to implement additional 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.
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 emergency procedures for their school with their staff. The Readiness and Emergency Management grant 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 U.S. 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.
Social and Emotional Health
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
- Responsive school/home and other social/emotional support programs
- Anti-bullying programs 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
Both Newton North and Newton South maintain open campus for students in good academic standing. It is a delicate balance we must strike to maintain the open campus philosophy we believe is important to student growth and maturity while at the same time ensuring the safety and security of all students, faculty, and staff. Our current safety procedures and protocols acknowledge and reflect the open campus policies in place at both schools.
We will continue to monitor, evaluate, and improve our safety protocols and policies so that students, faculty, and staff feel safe in our buildings and can focus on both their academic and social-emotional growth. For more information on open campus, please see the Frequently Asked Questions listed below.
Open Campus FAQ
The open campus policy is a key piece of our educational philosophy. We believe that part of our work as educators is to teach students independence skills. Understanding, rights, privileges, and responsibilities within open campus is one of the ways we help students to grow and mature.
The architectural design used in both schools supports the open campus model. The security systems and protocols we have put in place are designed to work with the open campus philosophy and architectural design so that students are safe, but also have access to this valuable experience.
We do have robust safety and security systems and protocols in place to create secure buildings and safe school communities. We work closely with our city partners, including both police and fire departments, on prevention, preparedness, and response. Currently, we are also working with an outside security consultant to update all of our emergency protocols.
In addition, each school has a safety team that meets regularly to review procedures and protocols and make recommendations or changes based upon evaluation. Both high schools have a dedicated school resource officer, campus aides, as well as security cameras located throughout the building. Emergency response drills, such as evacuations and lockdowns, are practiced at regular intervals.
Yes, we regularly review our safety procedures and protocols to make sure they reflect the most recent thinking and up-to-date recommendations from federal, state, and local experts. Given recent tragic events, we have made changes to both high schools to limit access during the day.
- Moved personnel to ensure the three major unlocked entrances are adjacent to administrative offices
- All doors will be locked except for the Main Entrances (Tiger Drive and Athletic Field sides) and Theater Entrance
- All parents/families and visitors must enter through the Main Entrance doors
- ID Fob access is being installed at several locations to allow staff only entrance
- Identified seven main entrance points to the South campus, adjacent to main parking areas and points of access
- All doors except for the seven main entrance points will be locked
- Developing plans to provide ID Fob access or passcode access to several locations to allow staff only or staff/student only entrance
Frequently Asked Questions
Utilizing the SchoolMessenger communication system, NPS can alert families through phone call or email. We can communicate with families, faculty, and staff 24 hours a day and in multiple languages. SchoolMessenger utilizes data (phone and email address) entered into the district's student information system (Aspen.) PLEASE NOTE: we are currently identifying the process through which families and students can be alerted to an emergency via text message to their mobile device. We will provide updates when available.
To update your email address and phone numbers, please log into our student information system (Aspen), to confirm that the contact information is correct.
In the Newton Public Schools, we value students' social and emotional learning, as well as academic progress. This dual emphasis is shared by all staff who work in our schools. We are currently implementing a multi-year federal School Climate Transformation grant focused on increasing school resources and supporting social and emotional learning.
If you have safety concerns, please contact your child's school. The staff will be able to answer your questions, address your concerns, or direct you to the proper channels for additional information.