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Addressing school safety: an open letter from Superintendent Paul Jenkins

March 1, 2018 —

The tragedy in Parkland, Florida has prompted a national and local debate on school safety. As a collective community at the local, state, and federal level, we need to keep finding new ways to address the issue of school safety.

While these discussions take place, our educators and staff will continue to prepare as thoroughly as possible to respond to any emergency situation. We owe it to the students, the families of our community, and ourselves to do our very best in keeping a safe and secure atmosphere within our schools each and every day.

Currently, we have very important safety procedures in place that we continue to rehearse and follow. Every incident can and will be different, but by adhering to the long-standing safety procedures we have practiced many times, we will always be in the best position to keep our students and staff safe.

Our efforts persist as we work together to ‘provide a safe, positive and stimulating environment’ for our students, through the use of emergency drills, staff trainings, and continued review of protocols for building security. I would like to review some key aspects of our approach to safety and remind school community members of ways that you can partner with us to keep our schools as safe as possible.

  • At the Middle and High Schools, Glens Falls Police officers are on hand for arrival and dismissal daily. Officers also perform daily building walk-throughs, on a randomized schedule. Walk-throughs also occur at the elementary school buildings, on a randomized schedule.
  • At all schools, red emergency lights are installed at each front entrance. (see a video of the High School light HERE) Community members should be aware of this specific way we alert those outside our buildings to an emergency situation. The lights will flash when a school goes into a lockdown or lockout situation, alerting people outside the building that they should not try to enter. If you are approaching the school and the red light is flashing, you should return to your vehicle or walk away from the building and wait on the sidewalk across the street until the “all clear” is given. It is an important part of our emergency protocols that outsiders do not try to enter the building, as all staff efforts need to be focused on addressing the emergency inside.
  • Staff and students continue to participate in regular drills for lockdowns, lockouts, and evacuations throughout the school year. These drills are often run in cooperation with local law enforcement. We ask that parents talk to their children about the importance of these drills and why it is critical that they take them seriously.

In the immediate aftermath of the Parkland tragedy, each principal is reviewing safety procedures with faculty and staff, and meeting with their building safety teams to make sure any issues are addressed. Our district-level administrative team meets regularly to share information and discuss potential concerns.

Next week, I will be meeting with local school officials and local law enforcement to discuss additional measures that we may have at our disposal to ensure safety in our schools. I will also be meeting with legislators in Albany to discuss possible solutions at their level. After the Sandy Hook shooting, New York passed the SAFE Act — which banned assault rifles and made it harder for people deemed to be dangerously mentally ill to purchase guns. New legislation is also being proposed to remove all firearms from those who commit domestic violence crimes. And New York has joined New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Connecticut in launching States for Gun Safety – a multi-state coalition to take action against gun violence.

Keeping our schools as safe as possible will take a combined and continued effort from each one of us. It will require commitment at home, in the classroom, within our buildings, on our grounds, in City Hall, the Legislature, and Congress. At Glens Falls City Schools, our attitude has always been—and will continue to be—to err on the side of student and staff safety with a thorough and multi-faceted response in any instance that could jeopardize the security of our school community. We will continue to take all necessary precautions to maintain a safe learning environment, and I thank you in advance for your cooperation in this mission.

— Superintendent Paul Jenkins