Maintaining Safe and Secure Schools – It Takes All of Us

Dear Methow Valley Students, Parents, and Community Members,

I hope you and your student(s) have enjoyed a great first week of school! With well over 700 students, some new and many returning, each one equipped with their backpacks and the broadest range of hopes, dreams, and aspirations, the positive energy in our schools is palpable.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: It’s with sincere gratitude that our school board and staff, working in partnership with parents and community members, is grateful for the opportunity to support the success of every student – acknowledging who they are, and more importantly, who they wish to be.

Research suggests that the preservation of safe, healthy schools begins with the important work of ensuring every student feels valued, dignified, and a sense of belonging. However, in spite of our best efforts, unforeseen and sometimes tragic events do occur. It’s for this reason that we need to make sure everyone understands their role and responsibility in the event of a crisis.

School Safety MeetingAs a member of the North Central Educational Service District Crisis Co-op, working in partnership with local law enforcement officials and first responders, we will be practicing our emergency response procedures throughout the school year. We will also be sending you regular communication focused on clarifying the important role and responsibilities each of us have in maintaining a safe and secure school setting.

Below is the first in a series of communications, using a “Frequently Asked Questions” format to get us started…

Thank you in advance for helping us to keep our schools a safe and secure place for all.

Tom Venable
Superintendent, Methow Valley School District

Frequently Asked Questions about School Safety & Security

Q: Does the MVSD have an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP)?
A: Yes. The MVSD has an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) and an aligned set of protocols. Each protocol is designed to promote a coordinated response for a wide range of potential threats.

Q: How was the MVSD EOP developed? When was it developed? Who was involved?
A: Prior to the pandemic, the MVSD, supported by local law enforcement officials and first responder agencies, expressed concerns about the unique challenges faced by rural school districts, law enforcement, and first responders when responding to a crisis. In response to those concerns, the NCESD formed the Crisis Co-op. As a member, the MVSD, local law enforcement officials, and first responders worked together, supported by the skillful guidance and direction of FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute, to develop and refine a Comprehensive Emergency Operations Plan and a series of protocols specific to our school district.

Q: Does the MVSD update its EOP? If so, when was the last time the district’s plan was updated?
A: Yes. During this past summer, MVSD Director of Operations, Bud Hover spent time working with NCESD Student Safety Consultant, Mike Dingle to engage in a comprehensive review and updating of the MVSD Emergency Operations Plan and related protocols.

Q: Will students and staff participate in regular drills/training exercises?
A: Yes. Using the district’s updated plan and related protocols, the MVSD has developed a “monthly” training schedule that not only involves all students and staff, but parents as well.

Q: Parents will be asked to participate as well?
A: Yes. Parents play an important role in helping to keep their student(s)and others safe. With this in mind, we’ve embedded a “parent communication” component that will be included as part of our regular training schedule.

Q: What will this look like?
A: While parents will not participate in the on-site training exercises, school principals will be informing parents of training exercises shortly following each training exercise (Evacuation, Earthquake, Lockdown, Shelter-in-Place). As part of their communications, they will be providing important information describing the exercise, the response, lessons learned, and the important role that parents would play had it been an actual event. Further, they will be providing a few guiding questions that may be helpful to parents when facilitating follow-up conversations with their student(s).

Q: Does the MVSD plan to train substitutes?
A: Yes. Given we cannot control when an event will take place, we will be requiring all MVSD substitutes to participate in a Substitute Safety Training, ensuring they are equipped with the information necessary to keep their students and themselves safe when at school.

Q: Is there anything else that would be important for me to know at this time?
A: In addition to the implementation of regular training exercises, we ask that parents, volunteers, and community members use the front entrance when entering the school building. We also ask that upon entering the building, parents, volunteers, and community members check in and obtain a visitor pass at the front office. Finally, we ask all students, staff, parents, and community members to help us keep our schools safe by reporting any concerns and/or possible threats to the MVSD and/or law enforcement officials immediately. This can be done anonymously using the Vector Solutions anonymous tip line located on the MVSD website. If you see something or hear something, say something.