How safe are our schools?
Berkshire County schools use multiple procedures, planning in an ever-evolving quest to keep schools safe
This story has been updated to add information about Clarksburg School.
In the weeks since the Feb. 14 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Fla., school security has again become a topic of concern around the country and close to home in Berkshire County.
There has been significant attention paid to school security in recent years, particularly following the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Conn. School administrators now work work closely with local law enforcement officials to develop plans for multiple emergency situations, and these take into account the variety of schools and their surroundings. In Berkshire County, there are significant differences in school sizes and their geographical settings, with some schools located on busy city streets and others set off along rural roads, surrounded by trees.
The Eagle asked officials in Berkshire County school districts a series of questions about school security, taking into account the confidentiality necessary to emergency planning, and some officials felt it necessary to omit details.
Below are the questions; the answers follow, listed by district.
1. What standard security measures are in place for the schools in the district?
(examples: locked doors? metal detectors? visitor sign-in? surveillance cameras? etc)
2. Do the schools in the district drill for emergencies, including active shooter scenarios? If so, how frequently? Are staff and students trained in how to respond?
3. Does the district routinely communicate with families about safety procedures? Is there a communication protocol in place for emergency situations (examples: robocalls, texting, special meeting places, etc.).
4. If parents and students want information about emergency preparedness in this district, is that information immediately available to them? How would they know where to find this information?
5. Option: Is there anything else you would like to explain about preparations/protocol in this district?
Adams-Cheshire Regional School District
Information provided by office of Superintendent Robert Putnam
1. All the doors are locked. Access to the building is through specified doors and visitors ring a bell for access and let in by a staff member. We have cameras.
2. The ACRSD works closely with Adams PD, Cheshire PD, Cheshire State Police Barracks. Adams FD, Cheshire FD, Adams EMTs, and the Dufour Bus Company all of which comprise our Safety Team. Each School has a safety plan that is reviewed by the Safety Team. The team schedules multiple drills each year which are observed by Safety Team members and feedback is provided to administrators who share with building staff. Students and staff are trained to respond according to recommendations from our law enforcement partners.
3. We have protocols in place for alerting parents. These include All Call system, Facebook and the webpage.
4. Parents and students should direct information requests to the building principals.
Berkshire Hills & Shaker Mountain Union #70
Information provided by Superintendent Peter Dillon
Berkshire Hills Regional School District: Great Barrington, Stockbridge, West Stockbridge
Muddy Brook Regional Elementary, Monument Valley Regional Middle School, Monument Mountain Regional High School
Shaker Mountain Regional Union #70: Richmond, Hancock, New Ashford
Hancock Elementary School, Richmond Consolidated School
*The two districts are basically the same when it comes to security measures, drills, etc., the only difference is Union 70 works mostly with state troopers to do drills and talk about best practices, while Berkshire Hills is mostly in contact with Great Barrington police.
1. Some of the security measures taken at Berkshire Hills schools include locked doors on timers, staff IDs, a districtwide emergency contact system, exit route maps in each classroom, surveillance cameras, visitor sign-ins, and running emergency drills. The Great Barrington Police Department works with the district to determine best practices for emergency situations.
2. With the help of local police, the district has embraced the active shooter survival training known as "ALICE," which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. ALICE educates people about their choice of actions in a dangerous scenario beyond hiding. Dillon said the district runs drills to respond to scenarios that include fire, active shooters, chemical spills and more. Students are drilled on evacuation and shelter in place. The frequency of the drills is tricky, though, Dillon said.
"You want to strike a balance between being prepared and drilling so much that — you never know what people have been through and we don't want to trigger or cause some trauma or worry," he said.
3. "We could always do a better job ... ," Dillon said, "but we do weekly newsletters and occasional meetings communicating with parents and families."
Dillon added that the district has an emergency contact system that, within minutes, can get messages to every family member, staff, faculty and students who provided contact information. "We could do some more of this going forward, some more forums specifically on school safety," said Dillon who added that the School Committee is in discussion about future district safety events.
4. Outside of events, safety and security information is more readily available at some of the district's three schools than others. Monument Valley Regional Middle School leads the pack with access to information. While each school has a section in its student handbook about emergency preparedness, the middle school goes into the most useful detail. The Monument Valley administration's policy on evacuations (mvrms.bhrsd.org/policies/) notes how the decision to evacuate is made and what the leaving process is for everyone in the building. There are also directions for students about how to cooperate with school officials during an emergency.
Richmond Consolidated School:
The Richmond School has scheduled a community night for March 20 from 6 to 7 p.m. to discuss safety planning with continuing support and guidance from the Massachusetts State Police School Safety Unit.
Security precautions have been increased over the past four years, Principal Monica Zanin explained, by updating camera surveillance and introducing a new key card system.
"We have added many new cameras and now have a running system where designated staff can view, in real time, the feed which is also archived," she stated. "We also have plans to install window laminate on designated windows within our school along with modifying some window/door entry points."
Zanin noted that five years ago, the State Police School Safety Unit completed a comprehensive site survey and submitted prioritized improvement proposals for consideration. "We have been updating our security planning and systems each year since," she said.
"I can't say enough about the exemplary work and support this team has provided us," she added, singling out Trooper James Carmichael and Trooper Andrew Canata as "instrumental in our safety planning at RCS."
Zanin also credited State Police troopers Andy Fox and Brandon O'Neil, as well as Lieutenant David Buell and surrounding local police officers from West Stockbridge, Stockbridge and Lenox, for supporting the school's security enhancements.
BART - Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School
Information provided by Principal April West
1. At BART, we have a very secure double-door entry vestibule, which the police refer to as a "people catcher." These two sets of doors are locked at all times during the school day. All visitors, parents, and students entering the building must be buzzed in by an attendant who monitors the front door. In fact, we have a third set of doors that connect to the main hallway of the school that the attendant can lock down via an emergency button. All classroom and office doors can be locked from the inside and have window coverings for added security.
All visitors must sign in and wear a visitor badge. They must also be accompanied through the building by a staff member.
We have security cameras inside the building.
2. We take safety drills very seriously. Before the start of school, we require all staff to participate in 2 hours of emergency preparedness training. We often invite the state police to lead part of this training so that we can remain up-to-date on our training information. We typically have two to three times a year where we review emergency procedures with staff during professional development.
We teach students emergency procedures in grade-level community meetings and in advisories. We conduct at least three drills with state and local police and first responders each year. These drills practice lockdown procedures during different times of the day, such as passing period and lunchtime. We review results of the drills with teachers and students after they occur. We also practice off-site evacuation drills and our administration conducts at least three table-top drills per year. Different administrators attend trainings offered through local law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security multiple times per year.
3. We review safety procedures with families in person as part of our enrollment process. We regularly use robocalls, texting, and email blasts to communicate with families, and also have a weekly family newsletter where we can share updates.
4. As a small school, most parents reach out to myself or our assistant principal directly if they have a question about emergency preparedness. Students often ask their teachers or advisers, but can also ask administration.
5. During this modern era of school shootings, there have been no fatalities of students or staff who were secured behind a locked door. Active shooters take the path of least resistance, and doing all you can to get behind a locked door is one of the most important things that a person can do to keep themselves safe during an active shooter situation. I believe that drilling students and staff can help ensure that as many people as possible get behind locked doors as quickly as possible during an active shooter situation. I really wonder if there would have been fewer fatalities in Florida if they had drilled to this.
Information provided by Superintendent Laurie Casna
1. There are several security measures in place for the schools in the district including but not limited to: surveillance cameras, bollards [vertical posts that provide a barrier for vehicles], radios, sign-in systems, ID tags, locked doors and routine building checks.
2. The district does drills for several different types of emergencies/scenarios. We have not done active shooter drills to date. Drills are coordinated and determined by the SEPC [the district Safety and Emergency Planning Council].
Staff and students are trained extensively under the leadership of [Massachusetts State] Trooper Andy Canata, local law enforcement and fire where appropriate and school administration.
3. Yes we have ongoing dialogue with families through multiple methods regarding safety and emergency planning.
In the event of an emergency we have robocalls, districtwide emails and website updates as well as contact to local news stations as is appropriate. We do have capacity for texting as well we can deploy if needed. There are established re-unification sites.
4. Parents and students are able to ask and have questions answered to building and district administration. We have information that is not confidential in handbooks, school committee policies and other public documents.
5. One thing I would emphasize is how fortunate I am to work with state Trooper Andy Canata who leads our district Safety and Emergency Planning Council. His expertise and attention to the district is phenomenal! In addition to Trooper Canata we have the Safety and Emergency Planning Council he coordinates that meets monthly throughout the year and includes local law enforcement to include Dalton Police Chief Jeff Coe and members of the fire department and school administration. The group plans the logistics of drills, discusses safety concerns and training, reviews documentation etc.
Information provided by Superintendent/principal Tom Nadolny
1. Locked doors, visitor sign-in, camera at entrance point (in process of getting internal surveillance cameras)
2. Lockdown, evacuation, shelter in place, fire- at least six per year. (No active shooter scenario drills).
3. Information about emergencies is in the school handbook. Will send letters. Parents can call Superintendent Tom Nadolny. Yes to robocalls, texts and emails.
4. Information about emergency preparedness: School handbook and call the school.
5. The school only has one entry and exit point for everyone. The local police department has offered to provide a school resource officer who would float when available.
Lee (includes Tyringham)
Information provided by district Business Administrator Andrea Wadsworth, who is also chairwoman of the Lee School Committee
1. We have locked metal doors, visitor sign in and out, a large amount of cameras. No metal detectors.
2. Yes, we have active shooter trainings multiple times a year and a re-fresher for staff.
3. The building principals communicate with their families and community often and update parents as to current plans and changes. They also use robo calls and special assemblies when needed.
4. The information is posted on our website and available to all parents and communities members via a request to the school. They may also inquire to the superintendent for the information.
Information provided by Superintendent Timothy Lee
1. Interior and exterior surveillance cameras at LMMHS and Morris Elementary, nearly 100 percent area coverage; stepped-up monitoring by school staff via flat-panel monitors with fixed and rotating views of the premises; creation of a daily security checklist for administrators and staff to ensure interior and exterior building security; visual sweep of the campus before dismissal to check for suspicious vehicles or people. Doors are locked; visitors must be buzzed in by appointment and sign in.
2. Drills are conducted for emergencies including interior and exterior active threat scenarios. The school district aims to conduct three or four police-supervised drills per year. Some are announced in advance, others are not, but students are told it's a drill.
3. Some protocol information is communicated in student handbooks and the school district has held parent nights on the topic in past years. A robocall is used to let parents know when there is a lockdown or lockdown drill.
4. Partial information is available in student handbooks. More information is available from the building principal or assistant principal.
McCann Technical School
Information provided by Principal Justin Kratz
1. We have visitor sign-in, surveillance cameras, and a one-touch lockdown door system
2. Work with Massachusetts State Police Troop B School Safety Unit annually on reviewing and revising protocols for a variety of emergencies. Do multiple drills a year with students and staff in conjunction with local and state law enforcement. Staff have participated in additional "staff-only" training with Massachusetts State Police. State troopers have worked with our faculty on securing individual locations classroom by classroom if the need arose.
3. We routinely communicate with families about our safety drills and rehearsals. We have an automated all-call system for communication with parents. Locations and venues for specific emergencies are contained in the crisis management plan.
4. Yes, I'm always available for any of our parents at any time if they have questions regarding our emergency preparedness. We have a McCann Crisis Management Plan that is reviewed annually by the Mass. State Police and I can share any appropriate pieces with parents if they ask me to.
Mount Greylock District
Lanesborough Elementary School
Information provided by Principal Martin McEvoy
1. Here at Lanesborough Elementary School, we take our students' safety very seriously. We follow best practices with regard to security measures. Our protocols and responses are based on best practices as detailed in such documents as:
- Multi-Hazard Evacuation Law for Schools- Section 363 of Chapter 159 of the Acts of 2000
- Mass. Task Force Report on School Safety & Security
- Medical Emergency Response Plans Law Section 8A
2. Yes, we work with local and state law enforcement agencies and first responders regularly on all safety drills. Staff and students are involved with these trainings.
3. We have emergency communications systems and protocols set up for crisis situations.
4. This information is available to the extent that it would not compromise safety.
5.We have a current crisis plan and crisis team in place that can be activated quickly to take specific and defined roles in the event of emergency situations. We are fortunate to have strong partnerships with local and state law enforcement and first responders.
Williamstown Elementary School
Information provided by Principal Joelle Brookner.
1. Our doors are all locked, and we have surveillance cameras at the doors. Visitors have to be buzzed in. If we don't know the person or why they are coming to the school we ask for IDs and the purpose of their visit. All visitors need to sign in and wear a name tag. Before sending anyone to a classroom, we call the teacher to be sure they are expecting the person and knew they were coming.
2. Yes, we work with local and state law enforcement agencies and first responders regularly on all safety drills. Staff and students are involved with these trainings. We had a reunification drill this past fall with a small group of parents to test our reunification plans.
3. We have emergency communications systems set up including robocalls, twitter and emails. Whenever we do a drill, we are in touch with families to let them know.
4. We share information to the extent that it will not compromise plans or safety. There is general information in our parent handbook.
5. Like the two other schools in my district, we have a current crisis plan and crisis team that can be activated quickly to take leadership roles in the event of emergency situations. Our staff is highly proactive.
Mount Greylock Regional School
Information provided by Principal Mary MacDonald
1. These (locked doors, visitor sign-in, cameras) are all standard elements and standard practices - for both our current building and the future one.
2. Faculty and staff have emergency training and regularly review the material and protocols. Faculty trains students. We have scheduled announced and unannounced drills, and are very fortunate to have our public safety officers available to assess our drills and help us improve upon them. Further, families have supported us with reunification scenarios.
3. We have protocols in place to communicate should there be an incident of any magnitude. If an unanticipated event occurs, we will communicate to explain what has happened (for example: a fire alarm is triggered, fire department responds, but there is no incident). For security purposes, we do not outline in advance all of the steps of our plans to the greater community. In the event of a crisis, our Crisis Management Team has very specific roles, including specific and broad communication to families and the public.
4. The basic information is available and they can retrieve it from me or the assistant principal, but as you can imagine, some specifics are not shared to ensure the effectiveness and security of our safety measures.
5. Again, we are fortunate to have strong, communicative relationships with our public safety partners. They have helped us prepare, review and revise our protocols; they remain very accessible.
Information provided by Superintendent Barbara Malkas:
1. The Emergency Operations Plans (EOP) for school security are developed in collaboration with many of our local first response agencies, including local and state law enforcement, fire and emergency services, and representatives from the hospital. We are advised by state law enforcement and the FBI to not share our EOPs, as that would potentially compromise the security system we have in place. Like most schools in Berkshire County, we use a visitor one entry/pass system with a sign-in for logging entry and exit to and from the school. We do use surveillance cameras in certain areas of the school.
2. We are required by state law to have comprehensive EOPs and to practice annually each level of security drill including fire, shelter-in-place, lock down, and evacuation drills. We also practice a medical emergency drill as well. The Safety Committee, which has representatives from all of the mentioned agencies, meets at least eight times a year to review the plans and update/revise the plans based on feedback from our drills. There have been opportunities for school staff to participate in active shooter drills with our community partners, but we do not practice these drills in active schools. Our last active shooter drill was at the vacant Sullivan school.
3. North Adams Public Schools has invested in CopSync 911 which allows for real-time two-way communication with police dispatch. We will also use our School Messenger call to notify parents as to where to go for relocation with their children.
4. I recently asked state Trooper Canata for information to provide to parents and the community and he provided documents [relating to school safety policy].
North Berkshire School Union
1. All schools are locked and have cameras at the front door. Visitors must be verified and buzzed in, must sign in, and must sign out. Middle and high schools have multiple cameras in multiple locations, which are recorded and actively viewed where appropriate. Middle and high schools have armed, sworn police officers acting as Student Resource Officers
2. We do lockdown and shelter drills and do relocation drills. We are planning active shooter scenarios. Staff and students are trained, staff training is more thorough and comprehensive — again, an area we are working on.
4. This information is available on our website, and school websites.
5. Student organizers of a recent protest complained that school staff were reluctant to discuss the Parkland, Fla., school shooting. In response to this, Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless explained that there is a policy in the schools to reduce the impact of traumatic world events in the school environment out of a concern for students who may already be suffering from trauma.
Southern Berkshire (includes Mount Washington students)
Information provided by Superintendent Beth Regulbuto and Lynette Gagnon, Regulbuto's administrative assistant
1. Locked doors, visitors sign-in, visitor badges, surveillance cameras in some areas (may get more). NO metal detectors
2. There are drills for emergencies, including active shooter scenarios. Several times throughout the year. All together the district does 10 to 12 different kinds of drills at a minimum, and they are randomly scheduled over the course of the school year. Staff and students are trained in how to respond
3. Does the district routinely communicate with families about safety procedures? No
Is there a communication protocol in place for emergency situations: Yes, email, robocalls.
4. The online student handbook, or calls to the superintendent
5. After each drill, the district's safety team analyzes the protocol and recommends adjustments if needed. The district uses ALICE, Active Shooter Response Training
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