Vermont schools assess and instate safety protocols as school year begins

Vermont schools work with state and independent agencies to increase safety protocols
Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 8:40 AM EDT
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STOWE, Vt. (WCAX) - School safety concerns are prominent across the country and some Vermont schools are working with state resources to improve their safety protocols.

Schools have the ability to request a free safety audit where the state comes in and assesses the school to see what plans and infrastructure could use some improvement.

Vermont Emergency Management issues guidance including medical issues, school bus accidents and threats.

While the number of requests was down during the pandemic, Vermont Emergency Management’s Sunni Eriksen says they’re back up.

The team looks at things like fire drills, reunification and other emergencies now that COVID-19 protocols have loosened.

Eriksen says more people are likely requesting audits because schools are somewhat returning to normal after COVID-19 and because of school shootings and threats nationwide.

“People are starting to evaluate, you know, where their school might stand security-wise and what they might do to increase those security measures,” said Eriksen.

Eriksen says they’re promoting response-based training and awareness and encouraging people to be more vigilant about school safety.

She adds that it’s important to do community caretaking and follow the “if you see something, say something” campaign or call their anonymous tip line.

Eriksen said that schools in the state are held to expectations surrounding visitor management, door locking, security cameras and other security precautions.

Stowe High School is one of about a dozen Vermont schools that recently underwent a safety audit.

Lamoille South Unified Union School District Superintendent Ryan Heraty said school security had not been audited for a while and that he believed it would be beneficial now that pandemic guidelines have loosened.

Heraty said the schools in his district are revamping all emergency procedures and protocols to ensure they’re up to date with the latest research. Schools are also using pandemic relief funding to partner with a security firm to develop a district-wide emergency operations plan.

“We have a responsibility to make sure we’re doing our part. So what are we doing for our staff training for our students to make sure that any, you know any response or emergency comes up, we’re all a team operating together,” Heraty said.

Eriksen said Emergency Management is issuing revised drill guidance for events like fire drills, reunification and other emergencies ahead of this school year.

At the Lamoille South Unified Union School District, Heraty says they’ll be talking a lot with students and staff about mental health this year.

“If a student is struggling for any variety of reasons, how do we get that support right away,” said Heraty.

Most schools in Vermont start the last week of August.