The New Paltz Central School District (NPCSD) is seeking feedback on its proposed district-wide safety plan prior to a public hearing during a meeting of the Board of Education scheduled for Wednesday, August 17.
Malcolm Toffolo, manager of emergency and threat assessment services for East Greenbush-based Needham Risk Management Resource Group, spoke about the plan during a School Board meeting held on Wednesday, July 27.
The plan, Toffolo said, is actually two different plans, both connected to the New York State Safe Schools Against Violence in Education (SAVE) Act passed by the state legislature in 2000. Only one of the two NPCSD plans is available for public review. The other is used in extreme situations.
“We have our building level emergency response plans, which are at every single building,” Toffolo said. “They are fully confidential and they include the vast majority of all of our safety-and-security-specific information. It also provides the backbone for our emergency planning. It dictates how we respond to different emergencies…And it also gives us an opportunity to document for emergency services our building maps, information on any of our non-ambulatory students who may be in the building, and including a specific plan developed just for them.”
The public district-wide safety plan covers a broader spectrum.
“These two plans started in 2001, and in 2015 New York Safe Schools came together and realized that there needed to be a more standardized idea of what would be included in these plans,” said Toffolo. “We’ve always had education law to dictate some of the content.”
Toffolo said that the New York State Education Department, the federal Department of Homeland Security and the New York State Police collectively began composing a standardized plan for emergency response in schools across the state as the framework for more district-specific plans.
“Out of that, our building-level emergency response plan template was born,” Toffolo said.
The NPCSD district-wide safety plan, Toffolo said, is the result of three recent audits by the Office of the New York State Comptroller of various schools across the state, focusing specifically on safety plans.
“And they found issues,” he said. “They realized that some things were not being done the way that they should.”
Toffolo said the resulting check-list based documentation offered guidance in how effective a district’s safety plans were, and where they might improve.
“It’s not a template, but I think it’s very much the north star that guides us to ensure that we have the starting point of compliance with our district-wide school safety plans,” he said. “It provides us the opportunity to begin looking at how we detect potentially violent behaviors. It gives us an opportunity to make sure that our school community is aware of the different drills, different training, different exercises that we perform.”
Toffolo added that it was important that the district-wide safety plan was available to the public and considered their perspective.
“It provides us with the opportunity to gather public comment from our community to ensure that everything that we are saying doesn’t just work for me, doesn’t just work for the (School) Board, but works for our entire school community. Because what we know about school safety is that the most important function of safety in the school community is the culture that we cultivate and culture what we build. And we can only do that through the involvement of our entire school community.”
The NPCSD district-wide safety plan is available for review at: https://www.newpaltz.k12.ny.us/site/Default.aspx?PageID=13536, and includes a link to a public comment form that is open through Tuesday, August 16.
In addition to emergency protocols, the district-wide safety plan covers risk reduction, prevention and intervention; offers school building-specific program initiatives based around the elementary and secondary levels; information on emergency training drills; details on school safety personnel; and protective action options for a variety of circumstances.
The next meeting of the NPCSD Board of Education is scheduled for Wednesday, August 3.