School safety forum aims to keep Chesapeake students, staff protected

Posted at 4:34 PM, Jan 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-22 23:14:07-05

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Your child's safety is a school district's number-one priority.

That's why Chesapeake Public Schools makes sure their schools are equipped with the best security possible.

"We're constantly evaluating the safety protocols and practices we have in place," said Ed Ewing, the Supervisor of Safety and Security for Chesapeake Public Schools.

On Wednesday, administrators shared their proactive approaches to ensuring the safety of students and staff.

It will be the first of four community school safety forums open to the public. Members of the School Safety Taskforce present, and attendees provide feedback about what's being done and possible improvements.

Since the Parkland school shooting, Chesapeake Public Schools has ramped up security. Ewing said all the doors are locked and visitors need to be buzzed in through the front office.

He also said they have increased the physical security, including additional cameras and updating outdated policies and procedures.

All are major improvements, but parents still beg the question: Can more be done?

Melanie Cornelisse is a mother of two and thinks yes. She was at the school's safety forum to share her thoughts.

"We would definitely like to see greater communication between our security team and parents," she said.

She also worries about how lockdown drills are conducted.

"I think it's really important the way that they proceed in the school - that we're cognizant of the fact that they can be really traumatic and scary both for teachers and for students."

Also addressed were bullying and having more counselors on hand.

Both topics were well-received by the Safety Task Force and other parents.

"The more input we have, the more ideas we can come up with, the more things we can do to keep kids safe," said Steffanie Aubuchon, another mother also in attendance.

School officials also encourage students to say something if they see something, but if they don't want to go directly to an adult they can submit an anonymous tip through the QuickTip app.

"We want to make sure our students and our parents know that they can reach out to us if they have a concern that it will be addressed in a timely manner," said Ewing.

The school district is also in the process of installing stop-arm cameras to buses, create a "parent bus-tracking app," and add safety vestibules to area high schools.

School Resource Officers (SROs) are in place at all middle and high schools, and elementary schools have School Security Officers (SSOs).

The safety efforts that are in place at each school are developed in conjunction with the City of Chesapeake, the Chesapeake Police Department, the Chesapeake Fire Department and Emergency Management.

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