The following was sent by Supt. Dr. John Ramos to the SOMSD community on Thursday, 9/29/16:
To the South Orange Maplewood Community:
While we are very relieved that there were no casualties at the Townville Elementary School in South Carolina yesterday, the incident provides an important reminder that we must all work together and be vigilant in protecting our school community. In light of this incident, I wanted to remind our community that the safety of our students and staff is always the highest priority for the South Orange Maplewood School District.
We coordinate our approach to school safety with the Police and Fire Departments of South Orange and Maplewood. Security procedures are established for all of the schools, and each school has a crisis management team. Over the past few years, we have further strengthened our existing program with additional security equipment, training, and protocols, and last year we added security guards at both middle schools.
Here are some of the steps we are taking to keep our students and staff safe:
- Screening visitors before admittance. We ask the community to contribute to the overall safety of our students and staff by only entering the school through the main entrance, answering all questions posed by the office staff prior to admittance, reporting directly to the office (Elementary Schools) or security guard (Secondary Schools) to sign in upon admittance. We ask visitors to comply with all directions given by school personnel while in the building.
- Continuing emergency drills. We conduct state-mandated emergency drills – both a fire drill, and a security drill – at each school every month. Security drills include non-fire evacuations and lockdown situations. We practice a different security drill each month, repeating them as necessary, to ensure that each security drill is practiced at least twice a year and that students and staff know what to do to protect themselves in various situations. After each safety drill, we closely monitor our students’ reactions, and we evaluate our procedures to seamlessly blend these exercises into our standard safety practices.
- Strengthening partnerships with towns and law enforcement. Over the past year, members of the Administration and the Board of Education have met periodically with elected leaders and the Police Chiefs from both towns to strategize on how to best keep our communities safe, to share plans, and to coordinate our efforts.
- Continuing to upgrade and enhance security equipment. Each year we review our security equipment and upgrade as necessary. Recent upgrades have included additional security cameras throughout the District, lighting upgrades to increase security in isolated areas, and new security measures in individual classrooms, enhancing both preventive and responsive mechanisms.
If you witness a suspected breach of security or suspicious behavior, please immediately notify the office staff or school administration, and please send an additional notification via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We appreciate your continued partnership and assistance as we work as a community to protect the safety and well-being of our students and staff.
Dr. John J. Ramos, Sr.