Preparedness in EWSD
At EWSD, the safety of our students is our top priority. Together we can make our schools stronger and safer. Students teachers, parents, school administrators, local law enforcement, and community members have a role to play in creating a safe and secure environment for everyone.
Here are some of the ways that the District has engaged in safety and security preparedness efforts.
- We collaborate with local emergency planners and with our first response community on our school emergency preparedness efforts.
- The School and Public Safety Group also meets monthly with local emergency responders to review and evaluate our emergency procedures and stay up to date on emergency protocols from the State of Vermont.
- The EWSD has a strong relationship with our local law enforcement and we often work with these members to discuss potential crisis situations.
- Our schools also routinely practice safety drills, and our committed staff practices these with ongoing diligence.
Safety in Our Schools
Active Threat Response
This is the belief behind the Essex Westford School District’s (EWSD) partnership with the Essex Police Department and our community’s First Responders, as we begin training on a more flexible approach to responding to a possible active threat at one of our schools.
It’s been nearly 20 years since lockdown drills became standard practice for schools across the country. Since then, threats and law enforcement tactics have evolved. It’s time for more enhanced safety response protocols to be implemented in schools. Building upon the success of our existing work, this more situationally-driven approach recognizes that no single response fits every potential scenario. Having more options will keep our students, staff, and community safer.
Over time, starting with staff at our high school and technical center campus, EWSD will be rolling out the US Department of Homeland Security’s recommended protocol - Run, Hide, Fight. This work will not replace any of the current safety protocols or regular drills - each of those will remain and be actively reinforced across the District and throughout the school year. What is new, is the building of greater situational awareness around responding to an active threat.
What is an “active threat?” An “active threat” is defined as any incident which by its deliberate nature creates an immediate threat to life or presents an imminent danger. In addition to offenders armed with firearms (active shooters), it is possible for other types of weapons or instruments to be used to cause harm.
For these types of situations, the goal is to have additional options to procedures we currently have in place - Run, Hide, Fight - and to empower everyone to survive an active threat.
This is challenging work. The difficult conversations ahead will help us in our preparations to keep our schools and community even safer. Over the summer the District will be working with our partners to develop a comprehensive training and communication plan for the District’s safety measures, including our new Run, Hide, Fight initiative.
As we strengthen our safety measures to emphasize greater situational awareness in EWSD - especially in response to the worst events we can possibly imagine - we know our students and staff will be safer and we will have collectively developed valuable life skills for our entire school community to take with them wherever they go.
See Something, Say Something
The District is committed to keeping schools safe places for learning through prevention efforts as well. Through the use of anonymous tip reporting, vital information about threats or intents to harm oneself or others can be anonymously through our digital website platform (Blackboard) or by calling the anonymous tip line (call 802-857-7977). Concerns can also be shared with a trusted adult in the school or by contacting law enforcement directly at 802-878-8331. We encourage anyone who observes or hears of suspicious activity to say something - it could save a life!
School Resource Officer
The District has partnered with local law enforcement to provide a School Resource Officer (SRO) at the high school/technical center campus. This initiative will be expanded in the coming months to include our middle schools. The SRO develops positive relationships with students and staff within the school and engages in prevention and awareness activities. In the event of an active threat, having a trained law enforcement officer within the building allows for immediate emergency response.
Another way that the District is strengthening school safety and security is through Social Emotional Learning (SEL) within the classroom. This effort reinforces the power of empathy, relationships, and seeks to develop environments where all learners feel safe and supported.