“Be Safe” Program to Drill District’s Youngest Not to Leave Building Without a Teacher

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The following letter from Greenwich School Superintendent was sent to all Greenwich Public School parents on March 2, 2015
Dear GPS Elementary Parents and Families:

The safety and security of all our students and staff is my highest priority. High quality learning and academic success—intellectual rigor—is my watchword, but first things first: we must make sure all our schools are safe and secure learning environments. I am writing to update you on several recent developments to ensure school safety.

The district is embarking on a more comprehensive relationship with the Greenwich Police Department, Greenwich Fire Department and Greenwich Emergency Medical Service. Building on the strong partnership we have with Greenwich’s emergency services, we are developing a highly integrated system linking the District, individual schools and the emergency agencies digitally and with consistent action plans so that we can address immediately all safety concerns.

Known as “Be Safe,” the program is being introduced to administrators and staff this Spring and will be implemented in Fall 2015, with more information for all parents at the start of school.

We also conduct regular safety and security audits of our schools. Since 2013, major upgrades have been made in all schools, especially our elementary buildings. In January 2015, we reviewed elementary school safety protocols as they relate to students leaving or returning to the school during the school day. In my years in Greenwich, few elementary students have left the building unattended, but I want us to be consistent across schools on how to handle the rare (but serious) moment when a student is outside without adult supervision. I want to be sure that all elementary schools help students understand the importance of staying in school during the day. I also expect staff to be explicit with students about what to do if they leave the building for some reason without a teacher.

By the end of January, we required all elementary classroom teachers at all grade levels (Kindergarten through grade 5) to do the following:

1) Have a discussion with students about the fact that they are never to leave the building without an adult. Teachers should emphasize that this is a safety issue and that even if upset, there are many places to go in the building for help, but that leaving the building without permission is never an option.

2) During this discussion, teachers should emphasize that students who find themselves alone outside (e.g., lagging behind when the PE class goes back inside) should immediately come to the front entrance of the school and ring the doorbell for entry.

3) All teachers need to bring their classes to the front entry of the school and show the students the location of the bell/buzzer. When showing the students the bell/buzzer, teachers should emphasize that after ringing the bell students should wait for either an adult to come and get them or for an adult to talk to them on the intercom.

4) And last, but not least, teachers should stress that under no circumstance should students leave the front entry. Students can ring the bell/buzzer several times until an adult comes.

I would ask that you review these four points with your elementary students. You can do so in simple terms, reminding students that they should stay in school other than when they go outside for recess, gym class or for other reasons with a teacher. To repeat, our staff work diligently to monitor all students; it is a rare occurrence to have an elementary student straying from an adult. We always need to be prepared, however, and all work together to ensure student safety.

We look forward to introducing the “Be Safe” program to all parents in Fall 2015. In the meantime, please know that the GPS administration and staff place student safety and security as our top concern. I also want to assure you that we have superb support from the Greenwich Police Department, Greenwich Fire Department and Greenwich Emergency Medical Service. They join us in ensuring the health and welfare of your children every day.

Be well.