Superintendent’s Coffee Hour Tackles School Safety, Masking, and More

Huron Valley Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Salah addresses parents during a virtual coffee hour on December 8, which was broadcast live on YouTube. The event usually takes place twice a year, once in the first semester and again in the second semester.

Superintendent Dr Paul Salah addressed several hot topics within Huron Valley schools during a coffee hour broadcast on YouTube on December 8.

He was joined by Kim Root, executive director of school safety, communications and strategic initiatives for HVS.

Parents were able to submit questions in advance, and topics spanned the gamut of mask mandates, cafeteria food choices, COVID protocol, student social and emotional health, and marksman training. active.

Copy threats

Coffee hour followed the Oxford High School tragedy, where four students were killed in a mass school shooting on November 30.

Since then, several Oakland County students, including four from the Huron Valley School District, have been criminally charged for allegedly posting threats to stage copy attacks like the one at Oxford High School. The threats are a mix of writing, social media and talk.

More recently, a student at Milford High School admitted to writing a threat on the bathroom wall on December 7, predicting trouble at 10:30 a.m.

“If you are the parent of a child in high school on this call, it is in middle school / high school that we see these threats, please speak to your children,” Salah told viewers. “Tell them these threats aren’t funny. Whether they are meant to be humorous or just to take a break from a school environment, they will not be tolerated. They cause too much fear and disruption.

Salah went on to say that the threats had no validity and were only intended to cause disruption.

Active marksman training

Each October, HVS recognizes the third week of the month as Safety Week. During the week, age-appropriate presentations are held for elementary, middle and high school students. At the secondary level, this includes active marksmanship training for students and staff.

HVS signed a contract with ALICE Training three years ago, which upholds the principles of alert, lockdown, information, countermeasures and evacuation. Since then, the District has moved to a Run, Hide, Fight approach, which Root says offers the same principles but in a more streamlined and straightforward approach. The method, she says, is endorsed by local police departments, Michigan State Police, FEMA, the US Department of Homeland Security, and the US Department of Education.

The day before coffee time, the students were granted early release and Root spent the day with Milford Police Detective Dan Caldwell, who is also a School Resources Officer assigned to Milford Schools. He offered refresher training to each school building on the Run, Hide, Fight protocols. The next phase is to work in each building to organize scenario-based training with staff, followed by age-appropriate strategies. Learning will continue throughout the year.

“It’s a commitment and something that’s part of our culture,” Root said. “So much of what we do is not made public because we don’t necessarily want to tell people the tactics and strategies we use to keep the building safe. But please know that as a community we are committed to this and have been for some time. It didn’t take Oxford for us to engage in safe and secure entrances, and it didn’t take the tragedy of Oxford to train our staff and practice our exercises.

When asked about the possibility of implementing a clear policy on backpacks for students, as well as the use of metal detectors to increase student safety, Root said this was not a feasible solution, citing the high cost of these devices, as well as the training and policies associated with them.

“We like to rely on law enforcement to tell us about best practices, and they don’t see metal detectors as a best practice for public schools. As we discuss the policies, procedures and expectations to be put in place, we will review them with our local law enforcement agencies, as well as with Michigan State Police and National Agencies. that give us recommendations for safe schools.

Social emotional health

The socio-emotional health of the students and what the district is doing to support the students, as well as plans for the future, were also a major topic of discussion.

Salah says they lowered the counselor-to-student ratio and added social work support to every building in the district. In addition, sensory rooms to help students who may be struggling with anxiety or stress are available.

“As a school district, we’ve done a lot, but we continue to look at our systems and support to help every child meet their needs where they are, which means continuing to add more,” said Salah. . “One thing I would ask of the audience, when we take a look at how schools are designed to operate, is that so much continues to be added. Every time we add these positions, it’s less we can do on the academic side.

“My call is on the legislature to take the support of local school districts seriously so that we can do these things and not have to take money or resources out of classrooms to provide social and emotional support. At the end of the day, that’s ultimately what we need to do. We are weighing where we can take a little to put a little and we need more focused support from the legislature to do it. “

The superintendent has asked parents to contact their local lawmakers, including State Representative Matt Maddock and Senator Jim Runestad.

Masking in schools

HVS is currently on a mask warrant following an order from the Oakland County Department of Health.

“I want you to know out there… no matter where you stand on this, we’ve asked our legal counsel these questions and the ongoing legal advice we’re getting is that school districts should follow public health mandates. “Said Salah.

He went on to say that as a district, they have used a “common sense approach” to managing the pandemic in terms of quarantine, and continue to meet with the Oakland County Department of Health on a weekly basis.

“Last year, we quarantined anyone who was close contact within six feet. This year, we took a different position in terms of quarantine, and we had very little in high school and elementary is done class by class, ”he said.

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