In light of the very tragic school shooting in Florida, and the information that is coming out about the events of that day, I want to let patrons know that Blue Hill Community Schools has been actively pursuing greater student safety. According to the Washington Post, we are now averaging one school shooting per week. These events are increasing at alarming rates. Mental health, building safety, and gun control are the issues that need to change for schools to be a safe place for students. Right now I want to speak specifically about building safety.
The Nebraska Legislature has mandated a Safety Audit for every school. We had our audit earlier this fall and some strong recommendations were made. Since the day of the Safety Audit, we have worked to develop a schoolwide “All Hazards Plan” (Lockdown - Locks, Lights, Outta Sight, etc.) – Standard Response Protocol. To name a few of the steps we have taken we have had local meetings with Fire/Police, we have placed numbers on the outside doors and windows to be seen from the street in hopes of quicker response times. We have required teachers to teach with their classroom doors locked and we have instructed students to never open an outside door for anyone to enter the building (both of these are works in progress).
Earlier this fall, we sent a team of teachers to a training called “I Love U Guys” training. This training covered many different building safety scenarios including preparation for a building intruder. On November 22nd of this year, we canceled a day of school to have training for all staff on the “I Love U Guys” protocol. This day also included simulated teacher responses to intruders. After the training day, classroom teachers introduced many of the safety protocols of the “I Love U Guys” training to their students. We will have an intruder drill this spring which will include the students.
One of the other items on the Safety Audits was communication within the building. We have a need for a new whole school intercom system that will cover current gaps and “dead spots” and will relay one message to all parts of the school (inside and out) simultaneously. We have received a grant from Nels and Lucille Winther Foundation in the amount of $25,000 to update our building communication system to meet the need as recommended in our safety audit. This work will take place over the summer.
Another area that still needs to be addressed is the elementary gym air conditioning. Right now this gym is not air conditioned so through much of the fall and later in spring, all the activity that takes place in the gym makes it very hot for students. Outside doors get propped open to get necessary air flow through the gym. Of course, propping doors open does not allow for a secure building when this is occurring both during regular school hours and for after school or weekend activities. We are working on a creative way to fund the cost of adding HVAC when we know our school budget is very tight.
The administration of Blue Hill Community Schools wants you to know that we take building safety very seriously. It can be easy to be complacent when we live in such a great place. It is easy to feel secure but we always need to be vigilant to guard the lives of those who work in and learn in our building.