School Safety and End-of-Year Message
May 26, 2022
As our school year comes to an end on Friday, I cannot help but think about how it ended on such a somber note for those in Uvalde, Texas, and our entire country. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Uvalde community and all those impacted by Tuesday’s heartbreaking tragedy at Robb Elementary School. In times like these, we are often reminded of how precious life is and how things can change in an instant.
I know some of you may feel a heightened sense of concern regarding school safety at this time. Please know the health and safety of our students and employees are and will continue to be top priorities.
The school system has protocols and safety measures in place as outlined in our Crisis and Emergency Response Plan for responding to emergencies. Employees are familiar with these protocols and undergo training through our safe schools teams/program each year. Additionally, we are fortunate to closely work with the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, St. Charles Parish Emergency Operations Center, St. Charles Parish Hospital, and local first responders in all aspects of emergency response.
The school system has enhanced and expanded our safe schools program throughout the years, and modifications to school campuses have been made possible through community support of bond issue initiatives. Our safe schools program is robust and is continuously evaluated and improved. As part of the program, yearly safety audits are conducted at schools by a team of district and emergency response professionals. These audits have led to many improvements including but not limited to the installation of safety vestibules at each of our school sites with buzzer access, perimeter fencing, modified classroom door locks, and security cameras accessible by schools and law enforcement. In addition to school resource officers at our middle and high school campuses and a roaming officer who visits all sites, every school has a safe schools team and personnel who undergo emergency response training. We utilize a district-wide campus building lettering system to assist with location identification for students, employees, and first responders should an emergency arise. Additionally, we are developing specific plans for students with special needs. These plans will address IEP necessities, plans for medication, and emergency kits with essential supplies and supports for these students. These are just a few safety and security measures in place to aide in protecting students and employees.
The mental health and wellness of our students is also a top priority. During the past few years, our Board has made significant investments in resources to support the social-emotional wellness needs of our students. We have implemented school-based Social-Emotional Wellness Teams (SEW) at each school. Licensed mental health professionals, as well as school counselors, play a critical role on the SEW Teams, focusing on providing wraparound support to students. We have also implemented a universal screening for behavioral health needs to help us identify students experiencing trauma, anxiety, and/or other adverse circumstances. The data from this screening process is utilized to determine if additional student supports are needed and to align internal and external resources appropriately.
We will learn from this latest tragedy and use these lessons during the coming weeks to consider improvements to our emergency response plans, and as a community, we will continue to work together to keep our schools safe and promote a culture where being vigilant and focused on safety is everyone’s responsibility.
I wish you and your families a well-deserved, safe, and happy summer. Please be on the lookout for information from schools and the school system during the summer as the new school year approaches. We look forward to August and working together for the betterment of our children and community!
Dr. Ken Oertling
St. Charles Parish Public Schools