As our collective focus has been centered around keeping schools and communities safe during the coronavirus pandemic, many schools and districts are wondering how social distancing will affect security once in-person operations eventually resume. After all, so much is still unknown. It’s likely that COVID-19 will change how classrooms, schedules, attendance, and more are organized. What does this mean for school security?
Incorporating Social Distancing into Safety Plans
It’s likely that social distancing will be required for some or all of the coming school year. Safety plans that involve large crowds or dense packing of students should be modified to allow 6 feet between students and staff. For example, you can have students spread out in a field during evacuations rather than lining up by class.
Changes to safety plans require intentional and direct communication with the entire school community; your school has been trained with years of drills to follow a previous set of directions. Make sure you distribute new plans and detail the new changes thoroughly. We also recommend explaining the changes to staff as it has a tremendous impact on buy-in and adoption.
If you want to talk with a school safety expert about how to incorporate social distancing into your safety plans, you can book a free consultation here.
Reduce Length of Lockdown & Fire Drills
Despite even the best planning, lockdowns and fire drills will probably require students to be closer together than normal. Drills are still crucially important – particularly because classrooms will look different and “muscle memory” from previous drills may be impacted – but you don’t want these drills to last any longer than necessary.
The key to fast drills is accountability and communication.
Accountability means that you can verify that every student and staff member is safe during a drill, identify anyone who needs help, and locate where they are. If your school or district is going to change the schedule so that only a portion of students are on campus on any given day, you’ll need to know which students are expected on campus that day in order to account for them. Tying your accountability platform into your SIS and attendance systems will make this process much easier and more accurate. Remember: the faster you can account for all of your students, the faster the drill can be over.
Communication here refers to the ability to get instructions out to your staff and receive their feedback during a crisis or drill. We recommend avoiding walkie-talkies as only one conversation can happen at a time, and if a staff member doesn’t hear a message they won’t receive the information.
Be Prepared to Change Your Plans Over Time
Public health experts are warning that coronavirus may be with us for a few years. The situation is going to be changing frequently over that period – restrictions will get stricter at times and more lenient other times. Safety plans need to follow practice, and the ways we keep schools safe for children everywhere will need to adapt alongside the world.
Having plans which change isn’t inherently a problem. However, changing safety plans without clearly communicating those changes with the people responsible for carrying them out is not just a problem, it’s a huge safety risk. It’s vital that staff only have access to the current safety plans, and that they’re aware of changes as they happen. If your school distributes paper plans, now is a great time to transition to digital safety plans. That way you don’t have to worry about staff relying on outdated versions of plans, or take on the logistical nightmare of redistributing hundreds or thousands of pages of documentation every few weeks.
We also recommend having different plans ready for different scenarios. What will your safety plan look like when gatherings are limited to 15 people? What about 30?
Safety in the 2020/2021 school year will look different than it did previously. But change doesn’t have to be negative – now could be the time to finally modernize portions of your school’s security that you’ve been putting off or waiting to change. Let us know how you’re adapting on Twitter @RuvnaTech.