Berkshire Hills and Southern Berkshire School Safety
A top of mind issue since the February 14 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Florida is school security and safety.
The Berkshire Eagle asked officials in Berkshire County school districts a series of questions about school security. Here we focus and highlight the answers from Berkshire Hills Superintendent, Peter Dillon. In addition, we focus on the answers from Beth Regulbuto and Lynette Gagnon of the Southern Berkshire Regional School District (Gagnon is Regulbuto's administrative assistant)
Here are the questions that the Berkshire Eagle posed:
1. What standard security measures are in place for the schools in the district?
(examples: locked doors? metal detectors? visitor sign-in? surveillance cameras? etc)
2. Do the schools in the district drill for emergencies, including active shooter scenarios? If so, how frequently? Are staff and students trained in how to respond?
3. Does the district routinely communicate with families about safety procedures? Is there a communication protocol in place for emergency situations (examples: robocalls, texting, special meeting places, etc.).
4. If parents and students want information about emergency preparedness in this district, is that information immediately available to them? How would they know where to find this information?
5. Option: Is there anything else you would like to explain about preparations/protocol in this district?
Here are Peter Dillon's Answers for Berkshire Hills (Berkshire Hills includes the towns of Great Barrington, Stockbridge and West Stockbridge. The Schools included in the district are Muddy Brook Regional Elementary, Monument Valley Regional Middle School, and Monument Mountain Regional High School)
1. Some of the security measures taken at Berkshire Hills schools include locked doors on timers, staff IDs, a districtwide emergency contact system, exit route maps in each classroom, surveillance cameras, visitor sign-ins, and running emergency drills. The Great Barrington Police Department works with the district to determine best practices for emergency situations.
2. With the help of local police, the district has embraced the active shooter survival training known as "ALICE," which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. ALICE educates people about their choice of actions in a dangerous scenario beyond hiding. Dillon said the district runs drills to respond to scenarios that include fire, active shooters, chemical spills and more. Students are drilled on evacuation and shelter in place. The frequency of the drills is tricky, though, Dillon said.
"You want to strike a balance between being prepared and drilling so much that — you never know what people have been through and we don't want to trigger or cause some trauma or worry," he said.
3. "We could always do a better job ... ," Dillon said, "but we do weekly newsletters and occasional meetings communicating with parents and families."
Dillon added that the district has an emergency contact system that, within minutes, can get messages to every family member, staff, faculty and students who provided contact information. "We could do some more of this going forward, some more forums specifically on school safety," said Dillon who added that the School Committee is in discussion about future district safety events.
4. Outside of events, safety and security information is more readily available at some of the district's three schools than others. Monument Valley Regional Middle School leads the pack with access to information. While each school has a section in its student handbook about emergency preparedness, the middle school goes into the most useful detail. The Monument Valley administration's policy on evacuations (mvrms.bhrsd.org/policies/) notes how the decision to evacuate is made and what the leaving process is for everyone in the building. There are also directions for students about how to cooperate with school officials during an emergency.
Here are Beth Regulbuto and Lynette Gagnon's answers for Southern Berkshire (Southern Berkshire includes the towns of Alford, Egremont, Monterey, New Marlborough, Sheffield. In addition, Mount Washington students were included in the survey).
1. Locked doors, visitors sign-in, visitor badges, surveillance cameras in some areas (may get more). NO metal detectors
2. There are drills for emergencies, including active shooter scenarios. Several times throughout the year. All together the district does 10 to 12 different kinds of drills at a minimum, and they are randomly scheduled over the course of the school year. Staff and students are trained in how to respond
3. Does the district routinely communicate with families about safety procedures? No
Is there a communication protocol in place for emergency situations: Yes, email, robocalls.
4. The online student handbook, or calls to the superintendent
5. After each drill, the district's safety team analyzes the protocol and recommends adjustments if needed. The district uses ALICE, Active Shooter Response Training
You can read about safety and security in all of the Berkshire County school districts here