Hawk Happenings: Special Edition

School Safety

Message from the Principal

Please read the attached copy of an email/letter that I sent to our staff today. I think it is important for parents to know how we address the continued safety threats that face our schools today. We are constantly reviewing, reassessing, and making changes to our safety plans based on real-time information. Please let me know if you have any questions.


Katie Dempsey

Message Sent to Staff Today:

Dear Staff,

I'm sure that all of us have seen the information on the news about this most recent school shooting in a Florida high school. It is tough to watch and so hard to hear the stories. I believe that it is important to learn lessons from each of these events, though. As someone tasked with creating policies to help keep our campus safe, I take all of this very seriously. Here are a few of the lessons learned from this latest shooting:

  • One teacher was killed when he went to let students back into his classroom and then had to go out into the hallway to lock and secure his door. I know that I have reminded teachers many times, but this is a good time to remind everyone once again. It is absolutely critical for you to keep your door locked at all times, whether in the main building or in the portable. The few seconds that it could take in an incident like this, to have to go out and lock your door, could mean life or death for you and your students. Any of us (staff) who want to get in to your classroom throughout the day have keys and there is no need to keep your door unlocked at any point during the school day. If it is locked, but open when an incident occurs, you will simply need to pull it shut immediately.
  • Also, in one of the Florida classrooms, students who were behind a teacher desk remained safe, while those who were out in the open portion of the classroom were shot. There are two lessons with this. One is that it is helpful to be able to get as many students as possible behind your desk or another large object. The second is that the shooter had unobstructed access to the classroom through the window in the door. That is why we have window coverings for the windows in the door (and all windows). They need to always be ready and immediately accessible in an event such as this.
  • The final point in not only this shooting, but in other incidents in the past several months, is one of preparation. Being prepared and practicing for events such as this is critical. Students must know how to behave and whether or not to evacuate in a fire, earthquake, or lockdown situation. They also need to take it absolutely seriously during a drill.

Here are a few of the things we have done already to improve campus safety in the past year or so:

  • In the new construction plan, I changed the architectural drawings to push the office out further into the hallway so that there was a full line of sight on the front door.
  • Frequent reminders are sent out about keeping all external doors shut at all times, not letting adults in through the back door on the second floor, and keeping the gate closed.
  • Communication lines have been run out to the portable so that there is phone communication between the main building and the portable at all times.
  • Our RenWeb system has been made available/accessible to all staff so that they have all contact information (for any child in their care) available to them on their phone.
  • A complete fire and life safety system was installed so that every room in the main building receives information through one all-call system that has lights and sirens, as well.
  • I met with Father Wagner months ago to discuss locking the church during all school services. In the last couple of months, the church has been locked down (with the exception of one side door) during all School services. Only the side door remains open and a plan has been put in place in the event of an issue during church services.
  • Through last year's fund-a-need, $20,000 worth of lighting was put in place to better illuminate the campus for security reasons.
  • I have met with a couple of law enforcement officials in our school community in the last year to review and address some of the vulnerabilities of our campus.

These school shootings are absolutely horrendous. I know that every individual who is part of a school community, whether a student, a family, or a member of the staff, prays that they will never see a day like that in Florida this week. We cannot control all that happens in society, but we can do every single thing possible to keep our kids safe while they are here with us. On the administrative end, we will work to ensure a consistent pattern of safety drills going forward.

In the end, much of this has to do with being diligent on such things as keeping our campus as secure as possible through locked doors, closed gates, and practicing with students so that they know what to do in the event of an emergency. We do not want our children to be frightened through these conversations and we need to be very aware of what is age appropriate to share and what is not. For example, regardless of how old our middle-schoolers seem, the world can be a frightening place for them and it can be particularly difficult for kids to think about a scenario where something happens when they are not with their family. So, we need to be diligent in practicing scenarios with the children, while being aware of how this can impact them emotionally, especially since many children are privy to so much of what is on the news. Thank you for all that you do to not only educate the children, but just support them emotionally and spiritually...and to keep them safe.


Katie Dempsey