Creating Safer Schools Regardless of Unique Challenges
Based on the article by Kevin Vargyas, “Designed for a Different World: Connecting a Century-Old Building to the Future of School Safety.” Read the full article on Upshot.
Old Building – New World
Keeping students safe in a 21st century world within century-old building is a unique challenge, and it is one that Kevin Vargyas, Associate Principal, faces at Cuyahoga Falls High School. Kevin states, “Our school is 97 years old. It was designed to bring people in, not keep them out. There are over 100 doors to our building. We have tons of cameras, but we can’t have a metal detector or security guard at every door. So, it’s a major challenge to take a building that was designed for a different world and essentially put a bubble around it, without physically changing anything.”
Ensuring that students are kept safe in these conditions is a challenge; however, by valuing the ability to have uncomfortable conversations that initiate change, Kevin Vargyas has been able to find ways to “build a protective bubble” over his school.
A Safety Paradigm Shift
When a false fire alarm during a class exchange led to a chaotic situation where teachers were unsure of which students they were responsible for and the staff was communicating with only four radios, Kevin knew it was time to implement a solution that would allow them to prevent another chaotic situation from taking place.
The implementation of NaviGate Prepared within Cuyahoga Falls City Schools improved the way his staff was able to handle emergency situations. Kevin notes, “We showed our staff how simple it is to account for each student during an event using the Respond app. If a student has been accounted for, their icon turns green. If they’re missing, it turns red. It’s common for us to have more than 1,800 people in the building, and now our technology can finally accommodate such large numbers. The text message thread allows the 100 or more staff to communicate in real time—a major difference compared to four staff members with radios. We more than raised the bar—this was our new normal. It was a complete safety paradigm shift.”
Communication with All
The process of creating a new system for safety procedures was made successful through open communication with students about new systems and new expectations. Kevin states, “The student body is the river. When you want something to happen, you have to get the river behind it. Once you get the river on board, you can’t stop it. And, over time, we got them on board. We got parents and teachers onboard as well and now, our momentum is unstoppable.”
How does your district respond to unique school safety challenges?