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CCS Working to Grow Safety and Security Ahead of 2022-2023 School Year

August 9, 2022 -- Safety preparedness is a focal point of the District’s plan to ensure school safety, and teaching staff how to act in the event of an emergency is a key element. During the first week of August, Safety and Security personnel, District leadership, and school administrators gathered for a two-day School Safety and Security Summit at East High School to discuss best security practices ahead of the school year. 

Working alongside community partners, they learned everything from responding  during an active shooter scenario to risk assessment in emergency situations. It’s all to ensure our students and staff are provided with safe learning environments. 

Superintendent Dr. Talisa Dixon and Columbus Police Deputy Police Chief Kelly Weiner welcomed attendees for the opening of the summit. They joined Columbus City Schools (CCS) Director of Safety and Security Christopher Baker to highlight the importance of giving students a safe place to learn. 

“Good security is never convenient. If we see something, we need to say something and do something,” Baker said. “Safety and security is everyone’s responsibility. It stretches across all different departments; we all have a part to play in this.”

First responders guided participants through possible scenarios to see how they would respond.  In small groups, they were presented with hypothetical crisis situations and discussed the best course of action for each. One goal of the summit is to give administrators information to pass on to their building staff. Ensuring everyone in the building understands how to handle a security concern helps the Safety and Security team create the most secure environment possible. 

“We came up with a full agenda that we believe will give our attending staff members enough knowledge to take back to the rest of their schools,” Baker said. “Gaining that information for employees to share with their colleagues that are not here will help assist everyone in their daily work activities.”

Along with training building staff members, efforts have been ongoing to bolster the CCS Safety and Security team. Under Dr. Dixon’s leadership, the Safety and Security team has increased dramatically, going from 84 staff members in 2020 to a planned 154 for the 2022- 2023 school year. Baker said he and Department of Safety and Security Assistant Director Crystal Jackson are still searching for qualified candidates to meet their staffing goal. They want to have at least one Safety and Security personnel in each building to assist students and staff. 

“We want quality,” Jackson explained. “We want our students to see that our Safety and Security personnel are there to help them in any way possible. We want to be there for them if they have questions or issues.”

For the 2022-2023 school year, CCS students and staff can expect to see several changes to safety protocols. More cameras are being installed ahead of the start of school and during the year. The team will continue to monitor each building on a case by case basis and add additional cameras if there is a need. 

They are also continuing safety efforts at sporting events. Jackson said they plan to increase the number of Safety and Security personnel at football games and will use hand-held wands at select athletic events. 

“This is another layer of security. It won’t deter everything, but we want it in place to meet the needs of our sporting events,” she said.

Athletic events aren’t the only place security devices will be utilized. Random metal detector checks will continue at CCS high schools this year, and the long-term goal is to have metal detectors at every high school.

“We don’t want anything brought in that makes our students or staff unsafe,” Jackson said. “It’s to make sure we are as safe as we possibly can be.”

Jackson and Baker hope these efforts coupled with the work done at the Safety Summit will aid educators in creating safe learning environments. Along with training CCS staff members, the Safety and Security team continues to work alongside community partners because, as summit attendees learned, safety is everyone’s responsibility.