From the Desk of Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski - December 2017

From the Desk of Stefan Czaporowski, Superintendent of Schools - December 2017
Posted on 12/13/2017
Safe and Secure Schools

From the desk of Stefan Czaporowski

Although it is the holiday season, there are certain realities that we must continuously keep at the forefront, and the safety of our students and staff is a priority.  As the caregivers of your children, Westfield Public Schools want to keep you informed in all the steps we are taking so you can be assured that your child’s welfare is being taken care of.  Last month, all our schools participated in lockdown drills coordinated with the Westfield Police Department.  In July 2014, when Massachusetts released a Task Force Report on School Safety and Security, we updated our safety and security procedures.  One of the most important findings of this report was the recommendation that schools abandon the multiple safety codes instituted many years ago:  code white, code gray, code blue, and code red.  Instead, the report suggested that schools use plain language regarding school safety.  As a result, the state has recommended that all schools be prepared for evacuations, shelter-in-place, and lockdowns. Our district regularly practices drills for these situations.  The following is an overview, taken from the State Task Force Report, of when we would need to utilize our protocols.

Evacuation is used when the building can no longer be safely occupied due to the following: fire, gas leak, hazardous material incidents occurring in the building, structural failures, suspicious packages, or bomb threats. Administration assists all students, staff, and visitors leave the building through the nearest and safest route to designated gathering areas.

Shelter-in-Place provides refuge for occupants within the school building during an incident. It is used when it is safer inside the building than outside; for example, in weather emergencies, medical emergencies, violence, or other criminal activities outside the building. Depending on the incident, all exterior doors and windows are locked (in case of a violent person in the neighborhood) or all ventilation drawing air from outside is shut down (in case of an air borne chemical spill). Shelter-in-Place may also be used to simply stop movement in the building (in case of a student medical emergency). In addition, students and staff may be directed to designated safe areas chosen for the specific incident; for example: gymnasiums, hallways, auditoriums, or classrooms.

Lockdown provides protection for student and staff when weapon related violence is in progress or imminent in the building. It is designed to place barriers between the building occupants and assailant(s). Depending on the situation, there are several ways to enhance a lockdown to empower individuals to take common sense actions critical to their safety. These may include: 1) barricading the door using available furniture and other objects; 2) distracting or countering the assailant, and 3) self-evacuation. These actions are often based on the response strategies of Alert – Lockdown – Inform – Counter – Evacuate (A.L.I.C.E.) and Run – Hide – Fight (U.S. Homeland Security).  Any enhanced lockdown requires proper training and practice for all staff and students and educating parents on its benefits.

A parent’s role in these procedures is to trust the professionals involved – school administrators, police, and fire – and follow their instructions.  Parents will be notified of any emergency when the safety of students and staff is secured and when there is credible information to report.  Because the safety of all people involved in an emergency is at stake, it is important for parents to follow emergency protocol that will be disseminated through our School Messenger phone and text service. If you have any questions about our safety and security plans, please feel free to call us at 413-572-6403.

It is the holiday season, one where we gather with family and friends and give thanks for all that we are blessed with.  Westfield Public Schools is blessed with a community who supports our students and staff. We wish you a peaceful holiday season and a Happy New Year. 

Stefan Czaporowski
Superintendent of Schools
Westfield Public Schools