Dysart works on more specific safety messages

By Jennifer Jimenez
Independent Newsmedia

As part of a safety plan update for the Dysart Unified School District, messages would directly contact parents and guardians at the school affected by the safety issue, rather than communicating with the entire district.

Jim Dean, the district’s Assistant Superintendent for Support Services went over the Strategic Plan Goal C at a governing board meeting last month.

“We work very hard with our incident communication processes and we work very hard to make those very effective within our school systems,” Mr. Dean said.

There is monthly communication with local police on aligning messages with parents the community and staff as well as joint efforts with media inquiries. Mr. Dean also said the district has worked hard to improve their collaboration with municipalities.

Another big safety concern due to massive amounts of people gathered in one particular area is athletic events.

“We continue to work through security for Friday night football games. We work with administration on how to handle entry and exit points,” Mr. Dean said. “We work to bolster our security during that time. There are two very large inter-district games in football where you get a lot of people. It takes a lot of pre-planning and the staff does a great job working together and sharing resources to ensure safety.”

Another area of school safety is a mock crash that took place in April at Valley Vista High School. With such an overwhelming positive response from students, staff and the community, the district is in talks to bring it back next year.

Mock drills also take place throughout the year during transition times so students can get used to used to inside routes and finding inside safety places.

“We’ve come a long way from where we used to just put up a chair with a big orange X and they had to find another way out and now we practice drills during inconvenient times,” Mr. Dean said. “Such as lunch when we have large amounts of students we have to get in a place so they have practice for an event we hope will never happen.”

The district also preps supplies for parent unification in case students have to be moved from one school to another.

Mr. Dean said 96 percent of nearly 1,000 district parents surveyed reported their students are safe or very safe. That is up from 94 percent from last year. Eighty-five percent of parents’ surveyed believe the district has effective communication for safety.

“We have increased every year with addition of bringing back public relations position and that has helped and additionally we receive positive feedback on our targeted communication that the community gets,” Mr. Dean said.

In regards to audits and safety, occasionally Surprise Fire will observe the drills and give information on how to improve.

Board member Dr. Spencer Bailey said the safety survey showed 82 percent of people felt communication was effective last year.

“I am glad to see we have gotten it up there as opposed to when I started and there was a lack of communication,” Dr. Bailey said.

Governing Board President Jennifer Tanner expressed concern over people understanding the way information is put out and the process. Mr. Dean said as part of the district’s communication strategy, we send letters home or auto-dialing from the principal explaining the situation happening at a particular school.

Superintendent Dr. Gail Pletnick said in addition to explaining the safety process, there needs to be clarification to parents on what a modified lockdown is and what it means.

“Another thing we are working on is we are learning what are the most effective communication platforms and as it is not always the same for everyone and that is another piece we are working on,” Dr. Pletnick said. “We need to get out quick communication without a lot of detail and then we can follow up.”

The largest aspect of Dysart Safe is the difference between a lockdown and a modified lockdown. The district has gathered research to show parents prefer communication for safety phone text and emails.

“Having our principal provide auto dialer messages has been very effective and if nothing else you are hearing from the principal on what exactly happened and how to move forward,” Mr. Dean said.

Board member Christine Pritchard raised concerns about having mock drills during dismissal time as well as during school hours. Mr. Dean said the district has only had one during arrival. Dr. Pletnick said dismissal drills are an option with a limited number of staff members and students and can provide practice so those in charge will know what to do and can be the leaders.

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