Safety Changes for a New School Year

dsc_5944As you know, we take student safety very seriously in Worthington and are doing all that we can to maintain the safety of all students, staff, and visitors while in our schools. The Worthington School District, under the leadership of Jeff Maddox in our district office, has been working with the community, board of education, and security experts, to evaluate safety and security at each of our school buildings.

Last spring we articulated a three pronged approach to school safety.  We wanted to focus on:  district and school safety plans, student mental health, and safe and secure facilities.  Since that time we have been working deliberately to make improvements in each area.  On May 6th the Worthington board of education was presented a two phase plan for improving safety and security in our schools.

As we begin school next week there are multiple improvements to student safety.  Some you will recognize immediately, others are “behind the scenes.”

One of the changes that will be immediately recognizable is that security cameras, intercoms, and “buzzer” systems are being installed at each elementary and middle school this summer. The systems should be installed and completely functional for the first day of school. The camera, intercom, and “buzzer” system will be located at the main entrance (front doors) to the school.

All exterior doors at elementary and middle schools will remain locked during the school day. Access to the building will be available by pressing a button located near the main entrance. Someone in the office will greet you and ask you how they can help you. Please share with them the reason for your visit and they will provide you with further direction and “buzz” you into the building. There may be a slight delay in our ability to “buzz” visitors into the building as the office staff may be working with a student.

High Schools upgraded to digital walkie-talkies to replace the analog units.  These enhanced units have a secure channel for immediate communication to the local police department.  Exterior cameras have been installed around the perimeter of our high schools.  These cameras capture visual images from a variety of angles and distances.  Each camera can independently tilt, pan, and zoom.  Finally, electronic door locks will ensure that all exterior doors are locked and secure at appropriate times and will help guide the flow of students in and out of the building.  During the 2013-2014 school year we have committed to working with an architect to provide design options for both our high schools that would further secure the facilities.

We appreciate your patience as we all work to learn the new system. Although these changes require some sacrifices in convenience, we are very happy about the increased security they provide.

Furthermore, in addition to securing the front doors of our elementary and middle schools our  district has made an investment in student mental health.  Through the combined efforts of Worthington Schools, ADAMH and North Community Counseling we will begin the school year with three mental health specialists that will be available full-time to help Worthington students.  One mental health specialist will work specifically with our K-12th grade students who have been diagnosed as Emotionally Disturbed.  The other two mental health counselors will partner with our guidance counselors to meet general student needs throughout the district.  Finally, we will continue to partner with North Community Counseling to refer students and families for long-term therapeutic counseling.

Our approach in Worthington has been to try to reduce the likelihood of an incident occurring by addressing the mental health needs of our students, implementing safety plans with fidelity, and helping every student to build meaningful relationships with peers and adults in the school community, while at the same time taking the necessary precautions and securing our facilities.

Safety and Security is never guaranteed, and our quest for improvement will never end.  As these new procedures are put into place for this school year our district safety and security committee will begin to meet again regularly and you should expect to see further recommendations that we believe will improve the safety and security of our school district.

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