Academic and social successes are dependent on our students and staff feeling safe while at school. Providing a safe school environment for students and staff is always a top priority, but the topic is in the forefront of our minds now more than ever.

Before outlining some of the steps we are taking to make schools in the Hudson City School District safer, I’d like to share that, since 2005, our district has consistently received the Utica National Insurance Group’s “School Safety Excellence Award.” Recipients of this award must meet certain criteria of enhancing overall school safety, including transportation safety, playground safety and bullying prevention programs. Furthermore, of the award program’s three levels—Gold, Platinum and Titanium—80% of our district’s safety awards are Titanium.

Although we strive to keep our schools safe on a daily basis and have many safety procedures currently in place, we are continually exploring new strategies to ensure the safety and security of our school community.

Some of the safety features at our schools are visible, while others are more subtle. For added security, we do not publicly share all our safety efforts. However, I can assure you that our schools are locked during the school day and every effort is made to ensure no exterior doors are left ajar. This includes installing a system that will alert administrators if any doors are propped open. Additionally, school safety officers regularly walk the campus perimeters to ensure all exterior doors are closed and locked.

Entry to our school buildings is granted only if visitors have legitimate reasons to be here, such as picking up a student, participating in school activities or making authorized deliveries. Once “buzzed in” to the monitored entryways, all visitors are required to sign in. Beginning this fall, visitors will go through a more sophisticated check-in process before being issued a visitor’s pass.

However, physical security is only part of keeping our schools safe. To ensure our students and staff know what to do in the event of an emergency, our schools practice multiple emergency drills throughout the year. We also provide our staff with annual training for emergency situations. In addition to our safety meetings and various drills practiced throughout the year, we work closely with our School Resource Officer, Hudson Police Department and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department to regularly review and update our safety policies and procedures. No amount of review or practice is too much when it comes to the safety of our students and staff, and we will continue to review and improve our plans to make sure that our schools are the absolute safest we can make them.

It is important to note that our parents/guardians and members of the community also have significant roles during emergency situations. Please visit our website for recommendations on the best ways you can help schools keep students safe during school emergencies/drills.

Most importantly, we strive to keep our schools safe from the inside out by promoting a positive school culture that focuses on diversity, community and inclusion. Most students in Grades 6-12 participate in Power of Peace, a program that develops self-awareness, acceptance and tolerance. The “Too Good for Violence” program is implemented with students in younger grades, and our positive behavior intervention and supports program (PBIS) is growing in all of our school buildings. We are also working to strengthen our relationships with community organizations to offer additional mental health and social/emotional supports to our students, when needed.

While not every circumstance is completely avoidable, please be assured that we are working closely with experts to improve our school safety initiatives to minimize the potential of any threats to the well-being of students and staff at the Hudson City School District.