Each and every threat of violence in our schools is concerning, but our district is proud of how students are responding to things they see or hear. Our students are going to a trusted adult and reporting. While it takes a village to raise a child, it takes all of us working together to ensure our schools are safe places for learning.
We encourage students, staff, and community members that if they see or hear something to say something. The process is working. In all recent cases, the investigation began with a student concern.
When a situation is reported, we take the incident seriously and work with the Ottumwa Police Department to thoroughly investigate each and every aspect of the situation. Many times these concerns are unfounded. When founded, the issue is dealt with in a timely fashion.
One of our biggest challenges is how social media impacts our learning environment. Our recently updated communication plan is designed to share out the important information parents need to know in an efficient manner. Using our PowerSchool system allows us to text district parents and update them when situations do occur. We encourage our families not to add to the misinformation that can sometimes change the facts of these incidents, but instead, be aware of the facts and realize that children will at times make mistakes. As a district, we will address those issues by teaching students the necessary skills so that there is a shift in behavior and assist in ensuring that the same mistake is not made again.
At Ottumwa, we continue to focus on safety improvements and changes throughout our buildings. Over the course of the past 10 months, we installed key card entrances on several buildings, added cameras to multiple buildings and locations, made changes to the main entrance at the high school where one door is open throughout the day with a monitor covering who enters/exits, adjusted the high school lunch pattern for supervision improvements, added two high school security monitors, and added two behavior interventionists to Evans. We continue to have student drills district-wide and are tracking when those are taking place and sharing with our Emergency Management Coordinator.
In addition, we have emergency radio systems on order that will be placed in all our buildings. These devices connect automatically to emergency services. Each building in our district is also working on updating their emergency operations plan. Buildings are marking entrances with numbers on the inside and outside of the buildings for quicker response times from emergency response personnel.
Some additional steps we are taking to continue to improve the safety and security in our buildings include launching a School Safety Review of our district. This review will be occurring prior to the holiday break. We are also exploring a new camera system for the high school as well as additional cameras for Evans. A district FAQ page will be added on our web-site to assist with questions about safety from parents.
I feel strongly that our schools are safe. We will continue to make safety our number one priority as we engage, educate, and empower every student every day.