Where can I find detailed information about the school division’s approach to safety and security?
Information about safety and security in Henrico County Public Schools is always available. If you visit https://henricoschools.us/health-safety/ you will find detailed descriptions of the following:
- What to do in an emergency
- Personnel who support the school division’s safety efforts
- Required safety and security audits
- Our 11-page crisis manual covering topics from preparedness to recovery: https://henricoschools.us/pdf/HealthSafety/CrisisPreparedness.pdf
What is a crisis plan?
Every school has a crisis plans that follows “best practices” in school safety. The plans use a combination of guidelines created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Homeland Security and the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety. Crisis plans are maintained by the school, updated regularly, and they are maintained in real time. Every school’s crisis plan is reviewed at least three times a year to ensure it is complete, thorough and updated.
Do safety plans differ from school to school?
Henrico County Public Schools is home to 72 schools and program centers. We believe that one centrally created crisis plan cannot adequately serve the needs of all schools. Each school’s crisis plan follows a template and is customized to meet the unique needs and characteristics of the campus. Virginia requires that all plans be completed and approved by the last day in September. In Henrico County, we take that a step further. We require that all plans be submitted, reviewed and approved by Henrico Schools’ Office of School Safety before the first student sets foot on campus at the beginning of the school year. The week prior to that, faculty and staff members complete emergency readiness training.
What kind of safety training do students and school employees receive?
Everybody (students, faculty and staff) takes part in training. Our drill schedule includes twice the number of active shooter drills required by Virginia. Evacuation drills are practiced from the classroom, cafeteria, library, gymnasium and auditorium. Reverse evacuation drills are practiced so that students who are outside can quickly return to the building and be accounted for. Additionally, we carry out fire drills and bus evacuation drills. When drills are complete, observers meet to debrief and try to identify the ways to improve.
What partnerships do you have with Henrico Police and Fire?
Every school has an assigned “School Resource Officer” who is a sworn officer with Henrico Police. Our SRO’s and other counterparts in public safety share their expertise as we develop and carry out our emergency readiness plans. They meet with us regularly to review plans and protocols, to brainstorm new ideas and to plan training exercises. We conduct comprehensive safety audits in one-third of our schools every year, and members of the audit team include police officers and firefighters.
What is a school safety audit?
Audits help schools meet today’s best practices in school safety. The audit process ensures schools are following their safety and crisis plans, including policies and protocols established by the School Board. A comprehensive audit cycle takes three years. This means one-third of the schools receive a comprehensive audit in a given year, and the remaining schools receive an interim audit. A comprehensive audit is a day-long event carried out by a team of subject-matter experts that include police supervisors, a fire marshal, and staff from the Henrico Schools’ offices of School Safety, Pupil Transportation, Technology, and Construction and Maintenance. Interim audits are conducted for the next two years to ensure that recommendations from the comprehensive audit are completed.
Additionally, the members of the safety audit team conduct three unannounced visits to each school every school year to ensure that security and visitor protocols are carried out with fidelity at all times. This includes ensuring that visitors are being “buzzed in” at the front office, that their identification is checked against the Virginia State Police Sex Offender Registry, and that visitor badges are displayed prominently at all times.
What can I do to help?
We want students and families to feel comfortable sharing information that is seen or heard in our school communities. School personnel are trained to locate the appropriate resources and access the necessary supports when school safety is in question. Individuals can also share tips online using the “Silence Hurts” link that is built into each individual school’s website.
What is the Office of School Safety?
Henrico County Public Schools has maintained a countywide Office of School Safety since 2008. The office is staffed with experienced employees who are fully dedicated to crisis planning and emergency readiness. In addition to bringing their own public safety, emergency management and school administration skills and experience to the table, the School Safety administrators routinely work with our partners in police, fire and mental health to provide our students, staff and visitors at all schools with a welcoming learning environment that maximizes safety. Education first, safety always.
School safety is one of the four cornerstones of Henrico County Public Schools. While we are proud of the work we do in school safety, we are never satisfied that we have done enough. We are always open to new ideas based on the experiences of others. We meet regularly with our school safety counterparts throughout Virginia to share ideas. Our goal is to understand and implement the present day’s best practices in school safety.
No school system can prevent every possible tragedy that may occur. But we know that with effective planning, training, and continuous improvement, Henrico County Public Schools is continuously striving to make our schools safer than they have ever been.
We live in rapidly changing times, with online opportunities and risks for all users, especially young people. A variety of powerful technologies means information is readily communicated, acquired, shared, modified, and posted. Schools must help, guide, and empower students to leverage digital opportunities while mitigating inherent risks in becoming digital citizens.
How can you help your Ward Colt? Remind your child of the following:
- There are strangers on the internet just like in real life
- Images and words that are posted cannot be completely erased
- Act responsibly and appropriately even when no one is watching!
Digital Citizenship-Internet Safety
Read more about Internet Safety from the Virginia Department of Education at https://www.doe.virginia.gov/support/safety_crisis_management/internet_safety/index.shtml.
Please access this link for additional information on valuable resources to help your student become responsible 21st century citizens. Instructional Technology
Ward Elementary School Traffic Pattern
Student Drop Off Area:
Cars enter the parking lot by turning right off of Henry Ward Boulevard. Drivers are to follow the student drop off area signs until they reach the car loop. One faculty member is on duty from 7:20- 7:40 am each morning. The faculty member greets each car rider and they enter the school building.
Buses enter the bus loop by turning right off of Henry Ward Boulevard. Bus drivers are to drive through the loop until they reach the first faculty member on the bus ramp. Four faculty members are assigned to the bus ramp each morning and exceptional education teachers are on the ramp to assist their students getting off the buses. All staff members are monitoring students as they exit the buses and walk into the school. Staff members are on duty from 7:20- 7:40 am (or whenever all buses have arrived).
Buses enter the bus loop by turning right off of Henry Ward Boulevard. Bus drivers are to drive through the loop until they reach the first faculty member on the bus ramp. Four faculty members are assigned to the bus ramp each afternoon. All staff members are monitoring students as they enter the buses. Students will be dismissed following a staggered dismissal procedure. Zone Gifted buses will be dismissed at 2:15 pm and the general education buses will be dismissed at 2:20 pm. Exceptional Education buses will load students in the front of the school building. One faculty member will be in the loop. Exceptional education buses will be released no later than 2:10 pm.