Now that the school year is coming to an end, it’s time to assess what practices are working in our schools, and which ones aren’t. Flash forward to early August: school is about to start, calls from parents are flooding in. You’re tearing your hair out, but you know this all could have been avoided had you sat down and come up with a plan. Consider how you will address student safety before the back to school rush. Don’t know where to begin? Here’s a rubric to get you started on this summer’s assignment.
Summer Assignment for School Administrators
- Review your Pickup and Dismissal Process
- Evaluate Building Safety and Access Control
- Build your Emergency Protocols
- Prepare a Parent Communication Plan
Review your Pickup and Dismissal Process
It’s one of the most vulnerable times of day for a school, but creating a safe, efficient, and organized dismissal is something that, with a little foresight and planning, is achievable for any school.
If your school has a crowded and cramped release area, you may want to think about hosting dismissal from a secondary location such as individual classrooms or the cafeteria. From an efficiency perspective, a dismissal plan can not only save you from a logistical nightmare, but independent studies show it can also mean the difference in $47,000 in savings per year. Lastly, your process needs to be accountable. If a child goes missing on your watch, you’ll be answering to where that child is supposed to be, who picked them up, and why they’re missing . There has been a rise in the use of digital dismissal platforms due to their ease of use for parents, efficiency, and ability to audit and track changes.
Whether you look into automated dismissal management, or come up with your own method of organization, it’s important that student safety not be left up to chance.
Evaluate Building Safety and Access Control
School safety is an extremely multifaceted and complex subject, but a few simple adjustments can drastically improve your school’s safety practices.
Ensure your school has separate entrance points for students and visitors. Most schools prefer the front office for visitor management, so you may want to consider that your primary visitor entrance. Another thing you can do is check that all posted room numbers are accurate and clearly visible. Are visitors, students, and law enforcement able to easily navigate the school? Not only is it good customer service to have accessible signage for visitors, but can save valuable time for first responders on call for an incident. Also, companies like Facility One allow schools to obtain blueprints of their facility, and consult with law enforcement on their building’s security. Summer is the perfect time to conduct these assessments while the buildings are empty.
Build your Emergency Protocols
Dust off the old binder where you keep your existing emergency protocols, they won’t do you much good in there. Take a look at your procedures; are they simple, accessible, and able to be recalled by staff, visitors, and students?
If not, it may be time to update them. Consider what agencies you will contact, if doors will be locked, where students will go, what resources will be used, and how incidents will be reported. Kidio’s Panic Button is one program that comes preloaded with checklists and is able to be customized according to these considerations. Once you have your documents, clearly post them in each classroom and office, as well as make them digitally available for reference.
It’s important not to rely on these resources alone to guide you through a crisis. Schools should practice their response to fire and weather incidents, bomb threats, active shooters, and post-emergency reunification regularly and thoroughly. Whether you use a color coded system, physical alarms, or text alerts and panic button apps, with a bit of work there’s no reason you can’t start fall prepared for potential campus threats.
Prepare a Parent Communication Plan
This stage is crucial, because if you fail to get the parents on your side, they might eat you alive. Okay– probably not, but you do need to make sure they are onboard and informed on any changes you will be making. But what’s the best way to reach them?
A great place to start is when you’re planning your back to school orientation. In your open house presentation, address and demonstrate any new procedures, to cut down on the amount of questions and potential confusion. You can also host a booth where faculty can disperse information, answer questions, and give out quick guides. Finally, be sure to direct parents to the school’s preferred communication method for any questions or concerns. By having these details worked out in advance, you’ll be able to give parents all the tools they need when they walk in the door.
Not all parents may be able to attend a family night or get the paper fliers you send home, so tools like Kidio Parent Messenger that allow you to preconfigure messages and set up templates, ensure you have a plan to reach those parents as well.
Kidio can help you get through your summer checklist with our suite of school safety resources!
Contact us here— and let’s get to work!