School Safety and Emergency Response
The Newton Public Schools have robust safety and security systems and protocols in place to maintain 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.
Improvements and Enhancements
From 2018-19, the Newton Public Schools safety team worked in partnership with the Newton Fire Department, Newton Police Department, the Newton Teachers Association and the City of Newton to update the districtwide emergency operations plan. The team consulted with Preparedness LLC, a security and risk assessment firm, to review the existing emergency operations plan and update it to reflect current thinking on school safety.
The result is an updated, research-based emergency operations plan that provides guidance to administrators and staff for the most foreseeable types of emergencies. Importantly, the plan includes not only current protocols for evacuation, shelter-in-place, and lockdown, but adds a specific “hostile event” response. The plan incorporates an options-based response to an active shooter scenario, similar to the well-known ALICE Protocol (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate), as well as learnings from analysis of real active shooter events. New tools, including online and hard copy handbooks as well as classroom posters, were developed to guide staff and students in the event of an emergency.
In addition, in past years, grants from the federal government 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.
Training and Drills
The district has established protocols for addressing a range of crises and emergencies. 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. Each school has an emergency operations plan with step-by-step directions for responding to a variety of situations. An emergency procedures poster is also posted in every classroom. Staff and students in all schools practice these emergency procedures and protocols regularly. As is done for all safety drills, the practice is tailored to grade levels, using developmentally appropriate language and discussion topics.
Definitions and Procedures
There are terms that you may hear from your students as they practice the safety drills at school. To provide you with context and specific vocabulary, below we have provided definitions of the words most frequently used in an emergency. These words help to communicate the specific nature of the emergency and the actions that should be taken.
Evacuation "Get out, stay out" - This response is used when there is a fire or other internal unsafe condition. Students and staff evacuate to a designated assembly area.
Shelter in Place "Stay inside, stay safe" - This response is used when there is an external security threat, severe weather, or an airborne hazard. It is also used when there is a medical emergency. Students and staff stay inside classrooms with little or no use of hallways or common areas. External doors may be locked based upon the specific situation. Instruction can continue.
Lockdown "Silent and invisible" - This response is used when there is an internal security threat. Students and staff are hidden and quiet in locked and darkened classrooms.
Hostile event response "Run, hide, fight" - This response is used when there is an active shooter or other act of violence in progress. Students and staff assess the situation and determine the best course of action. They may evacuate immediately or they may follow lockdown procedures described above. The situation is assessed continuously and staff/students may change course as events unfolds.
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
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.
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.