As information and debate about last week’s shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida continues to reverberate through the media, it is impossible not to feel a profound sense of sadness and confusion regarding this kind of seemingly senseless violence, most especially when children are involved. Our hearts break for the families of those who were killed or injured in this horrific incident, and we grieve with and for them.
It is difficult for a seemingly random, man-made disaster, such as one that takes place in a school building, not to be felt particularly strongly by the students, parents and staff in our own school community, as well as in schools across the country and around the world.
While there can never be a guarantee against the occurrence of a tragedy such as this, it is important to remind parents, students and staff that the Rhinebeck Central School District has had safety precautions in place to maintain the safety and security of our students and staff for many years. These plans are reviewed regularly and are modified as needed, in cooperation with members of the law enforcement, fire service, and emergency response communities.
While we are in the process of reviewing our own emergency plans at this time, in light of this violent act, please be aware that we already have the following proactive security measures in place on a daily basis:
Each Rhinebeck school building has a single locked point of entry during school hours. Visitors to our schools are required to use a buzzer system to request entry.
Upon being granted admittance to the school, visitors are required to report to the Greeter’s Desk, which is located immediately inside the front door, where they sign in and are given a visitor ID badge to be worn while visiting the building.
Upon leaving the school building, visitors are required to sign out and leave their visitor ID badge with the Greeter.
In addition, each of our schools regularly practice various emergency drills with our students and staff during the school day, including lockdown drills and fire drills, in an effort to be as best prepared as possible for the unexpected.
We also are fortunate to have an excellent working relationship with all of the police agencies in our area. Of special note, we have been partners in an arrangement with the Rhinebeck Police Department since 2013-14 to provide our three schools with the services of two police officers who have been trained as school resource officers. These professionals work as liaisons with our students and community in our classrooms and in our unstructured areas, such as our playgrounds, hallways, cafeterias, and parking lots.
Please also be aware that our school staff includes skilled and compassionate school counselors, social workers, and school psychologists who are readily available, especially in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting, should our children need their services or should our parents need advice on helping their children to process this serious event.
Just as importantly, schools need the entire school community to act in partnership with school staff and law enforcement to address threats and prevent violence. As a result of the Parkland tragedy, security experts are imploring educators, community members, students, and parents to bring anything that they may have heard or that appears out of the ordinary to the attention of school and police authorities immediately through any available means so that those concerns can be investigated and, if necessary, addressed.
If you have any questions about safety and security in any of our school buildings, please feel free to contact your child’s building principal or me.
Joseph L. Phelan
Superintendent of Schools
Rhinebeck Central School District