HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Huntsville City Schools. Madison City Schools. Madison County Schools. All of the superintendents are parents. As students head back to the classroom, the three school leaders talked about school safety. They agree that safety of students is priority.
Allen Perkins, superintendent of Madison County Schools, shares they've recently put together a notification system across the district and assessing their safety protocols daily. "We're constantly, you know, making sure that we have our airlocks and our badges to swipe and so safety is huge, and we put a lot of time and energy into it. We are constantly looking at making sure that we have SROs. we have partnered with the sheriff's office, of course, currently have 19 SROs in our district and are working with the sheriff's office to get more but just to make sure that our kids are safe."
Christie Finley, superintendent of Huntsville City Schools, says they work closely with the Huntsville Police Department. "We have a strong partnership with Huntsville police. We have school resource officers in our school buildings. something a little different from other districts is we have an internal campus security team that has campus security officers in our schools, and they work really well together, collaborate, work well, and plan continuous improvement or reinforcing our procedures. It's also equally important to make sure that we train our teachers and our staff on those security plans or procedures that we have in place."
And Ed Nichols, the superintendent of Madison City Schools, shares they developed a safety coordinator position several years ago. "Dr. West is the head of our safety. He immediately gathered feedback and parents and teachers and put a group together to reassess where we were as a district and what things we could do. He and our school resource officer team also went to the state resource meeting, and he went to the national and we've got some protocols and procedures and practices that we felt like we could get better at. So he's worked on that. we also have had great partnerships with the city of Madison. We are asking for additional SRO so we can end up with one in every school"
There's been lots of discussion from each district about getting more school resource officers. Madison County Sheriff's Deputy Jonas Wilson and the senior SRO. He shares why SROs are an important part of schools. "[We're] implemented inside our school board to be a to bridge the gap between law enforcement and our children...there based on the triad concept of NASRO. We're a guest teacher, a counselor/mentor and a law enforcement officer. and that's what makes up a school resource officer as a whole."
School security is not the only thing on leaders' minds.
Christie Finley she said a new year, means new opportunities.
"I think the first day of school is always the most exciting day of school. This is actually my 30th first day of school in education. And every year, it's just like it's really like the new school year. It is a new beginning. It's a new opportunity for all of our students, for new families, returning families...at the forefront of all schools at this time, especially in Huntsville City, is security and safety for our students," Finley said.
COVID and school safety have been big topics of concern among parents and guardians.
And like Finley said, safety is front and center in all of the school districts.
Allen Perkins shared their recent updates to their safety protocol. "Safety is No. 1, a child can't learn in an unsafe environment. We are consistently, daily, looking at our safety protocols. We've put several things in place. One of them recently was a notification system that we have that every employee in our district has," Perkins said.
Nichols, the Superintendent of Madison City Schools says they developed a safety coordinator position several years ago and have adapted their protocol. "Dr. West is the head of our safety. He immediately gathered feedback from parents and teachers and put a group together to reassess where we were as a district and what things we could do. He and our school resource officer team also went to the state resource meeting," Nichols said.
COVID is something the districts are all monitoring and have cleaning procedures in place and will be keeping track of cases.
And mental health of students is another priority among the districts.
"We have counselors in our buildings, we have mental health, social workers. We partner with multiple organizations in the community to address the mental health within our schools," Perkins said.
"We also have counselors in our building, school counselors We have another extension of that with mental health officials or what we call licensed counselors in some of our schools or in our schools that they have access to I think it's important also that we that our teachers are very at the forefront of making sure and being there for our students, " Finley said.
And for students who may feel like they need extra help with their learning, each district has after school tutoring and teachers who can assist in curriculum.
The schools are excited to welcome students back and Nichols said to enjoy the first week and have patience.
"Don't let the bumps in the road cause you to miss the enjoyment... I always tell my daughter challenges in life can be bumps like a speed bump or a wall. Let's make them a speed bump. Let's not let them slow us down too much. But let us remind ourselves that the path we're on is good," Nichols said.