February 15, 2017
Dear Hopewell Valley School Community,
As details of yesterday’s tragedy continue to unfold, like many parents and educators, I am trying to process and comprehend it. When these tragedies occur, we go through a range of emotions: shock, anger, frustration, but most powerfully, a profound sense of sadness and concern.
As educators, yesterday's event is a tragic reminder of the tremendous responsibility we have to secure the safety and welfare of over 3,500 children in our six schools in a rapidly changing world. This is a responsibility we take very seriously.
As a District, we have worked diligently to be proactive in the area of student safety. Our schools are only accessible through locked doors at the front entrance where parents and visitors are directed to sign in at the main office. Our referendum improvements will further improve school security and facilitate immediate parent communications in the event of an emergency.
We meet regularly with local law enforcement and emergency management officials to review and revise our safety plans and protocols. Several years ago we instituted regular evacuation, lockdown, and active shooter drills. Administrators review procedures with staff and students in an age appropriate manner.
We are also working to be proactive in the area of supporting our students. Earlier this year I shared our efforts regarding student mental health. We have a number of supports available to any student who may be struggling. Please contact our counseling department to identify ways in which we can further support a student who may need help.
I ask for your assistance with the following: If anyone overhears or sees something concerning, whether in person or on social media - please notify the police or a school official immediately. If you see a door propped or left open, please close it and tell a staff member. As a visitor to our schools, you will be questioned if you enter our schools. Please understand this added measure is intended to protect our students.
This tragedy has already led to a renewed national discussion on school safety as well as gun safety. You have my commitment that we will continue to work with officials and experts to ensure that we are doing all that we can to keep our schools and students as safe as possible.
Thomas A. Smith, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools