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Safe Schools Week: Safety Starts with Minds & Hearts – Focusing on a Holistic Approach

Fifty-six National Heritage Academies (NHA) schools participated in Safe Schools Week Oct. 16-22. The celebration offered a dedicated time to remind scholars, staff, and their communities about the importance of school safety. Our theme this year is: Safety Starts With Minds & Hearts.
 
For several years focus has been on the fundamentals of safety operations, this year the theme added a more holistic approach focusing on the “why.”
 
“NHA is committed to providing a safe environment for students, staff, and visitors,” Director of Safety and Health Brian Gard said. “A culture of safety starts with school leadership understanding safety expectations and keeping safety visible throughout the year. However, school leadership is not solely responsible. Safety is everyone’s responsibility. Staff, students, visitors, and vendors are responsible for complying with and supporting the school safety plan.”
 
Participation in Safe Schools Week is one of the elements required to earn a Safety Eagle Award. School safety specialists and their committees are very creative in the types of events they organize and materials they create.
 
“Thank you to the school safety specialists and their teams for putting in time and effort to create engaging activities for our students to participate in,” Gard said. “I am always amazed at the ways staff find to teach important safety lessons to our scholars.”
 
Several schools are highlighted here with the activities hosted during Safe Schools Week.
 
Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School
 
At Brooklyn Excelsior they believe “Safety is Paramount,” because scholars cannot learn in an environment where they don’t feel safe. Therefore, this is an area staff place tremendous focus on all year, holding an abundance of activities for Safe Schools Week. Youth officers from the New York City Police Department’s 81st precinct visited to speak with the middle school scholars about the importance of community safety. They explained that a school is only as safe as the community around it. As a result, their behavior outside of the school can definitely impact the safety of the school. They also spoke about using social media responsibly. The officers opened the floor for questions and closed by sharing different community programs that are available.
 
The school also invited families to discuss school safety in-person. School Safety Specialist Gary McClellan talked about safety practices and procedures to keep scholars and staff safe and discussed how they can partner with the school to make it an even safer. They discussed the mantra “if you see something, say something. If you know something, share what you know.”
 
Technology Teacher Brendon Gabriel addressed classes on the importance of internet safety. These lessons were taught in alignment with NHA’s Children’s Internet Protection Act program. It’s intended to educate scholars on appropriate online behavior, which includes interacting with others on social networks, along with cyberbullying awareness and the proper response.
 
Two second-grade classes visited a local fire department and were instructed on fire safety both in the home and in school. Firefighters talked about their typical day on the job and showed students their personal safety equipment. The scholars were allowed to get on the fire trucks, watch the fireman slide down the pole, and interact with some of the equipment.
 
The week was closed by putting safety procedures into action with a lockdown drill including the entire school. Everyone did the lockdown in record time, which is an indication that staff and scholars understand the importance of not just knowing what to do but being able to put what they know into action.

School Safety Specialist Gary McClellan talking about safety practicesBrooklyn Excelsior invited families to discuss school safety in-person. School Safety Specialist Gary McClellan talked about safety practices and procedures and discussed how the parents can partner with the school to make it an even safer place.

Canton Charter Academy
 
For Safe Schools Week at Canton Charter Academy, many activities were organized. In grades kindergarten to fourth, there was a coloring contest. Three winners were chosen from each class to receive a casual dress pass. In grades fifth through eighth, students had the opportunity to create safety posters individually or as groups. Grades fourth through eighth participated in an OK2SAY presentation and the school conducted a fire drill. The administrative team performed a 5-4-5 (five minutes for five safety items) walkthrough and followed up with staff regarding any issues, including reminders about proper playground supervision.
 
Gate City Charter Academy
 
The Gate City Charter Academy safety team convened and conducted 5-4-5 walkthrough each day, checking all exterior doors, interior doors, guest badges and lanyards, staff IDs, and staff monitoring of transitions. A whole-school assembly was held in which Principal Dr. Natasha Robertson reinforced the importance of safety and encouraged all stakeholders to continue meeting expectations to ensure a safe school environment. Safe Schools Week signs were displayed throughout the school, and staff were encouraged to review their own safety practices and expectations with students.
 
Gate City submitted a proposal for construction of a new landscaping feature to improve the fire drill evacuation process after meeting with Fire Marshal Eric Cook. He was invited to observe a drill and offer feedback, and this proposal comes as a result. Also, the group discovered a few areas for improvement and will reconvene to assess means to improve safety practices. School Safety Specialist Graham Helsabeck said, "It is awesome to be a part of encouraging safety for NHA young scholars all over the country.”
 
Hamtramck Academy
 
A lot of activities and safety lessons were scheduled for each grade level at Hamtramck Academy for Safe Schools Week. The fire department visited with kindergarten through fourth grade and the local police department met with fifth through eighth grade scholars. The middle school grades participated in a poster contest with each grade level using a different safety topic, while the kindergarten through fourth grade scholars had a coloring contest.
 
Each day, scholars wore different colors to represent various safety issues: Monday - wear orange for fire safety; Tuesday - wear red to say no to drugs; Wednesday - wear blue to stomp out bullying; Thursday - wear yellow and white for peace; and Friday was a free dress day. With each of these special days, teachers had materials and videos they could review with students based on several safety topics.

fire department talking about safety issues with studentsThe fire department visited and talked about safety issues with kindergarten through fourth grade students at Hamtramck Academy.
 
Keystone Academy
 
At Keystone Academy, local firefighters visited the elementary grade students, and the entire school practiced a school-wide severe weather drill. Students created safety posters in art class and elementary students worked on safety coloring sheets. There was special recognition during the morning assembly and anti-bullying day – “Orange you glad you are not a bully” – where students and staff wore orange for the day.

students posing in front of fire truck
At Keystone Academy, the local fire department visited the elementary grade students and explained what they do during an emergency.
 
Matthews Charter Academy
 
At Matthews Charter Academy, classroom teachers had discussions with their scholars about the importance of school safety, what to expect in case of an emergency, and what is expected of them. Every classroom practiced a room clear drill with their buddy classroom. Leaders were impressed how quickly and quietly scholars moved to their buddy room. The school also held its monthly fire drill. Everyone responded quickly and efficiently with no issues. Also, the K-2 scholars colored safety shields.

Mountain View Academy
 
Mountain View Academy had a busy Safe Schools Week. In conjunction with the School Safety Team and Anti-Bullying Committee, staff planned an entire week of events and called it a schoolwide safety spirit week. Students visited the firetruck in the school parking lot and firemen gave a short presentation about fire safety and the fire engine. They allowed every student in the school to go inside the vehicle. The firemen also handed out lifesaver awards to a group of staff members who saved a life at school early this year.
 
Students learned more about emergency services in class and made thank you letters for firemen and other first responders. Kindergarten students completed their social studies inquiry projects based on safety at school and the importance of rules in keeping students safe.
 
The school completed two fire drills and teachers spoke with students about the importance of the drills and reviewed the class/school fire plan. The administrative team was happy to see that drill time was greatly reduced. The school decided to schedule another fire drill later that week to test their time with simulated problems. The drill was later in the afternoon during a time where students are pulled for small groups, specials, and snack time. This prompted teachers to hold up “Help” signs and tested the response in locating students. This was very successful, as students and staff worked together to complete the drill with a good time.
 
The school celebrated Unity Day and wore orange in support. Students and staff pledged against bullying, signing their name on a school-wide pledge which was displayed in the gym. Unity Day lessons were taught in specials classes and students that sat with someone new at lunch could tell a lunch aide about that person and earned a green success ticket.
 
Another day, students wore blue for first responders, talked about the importance of emergency services, and made safety plans for evacuations at home. Also, students had a day where they wore red for safety on red ribbon day. All students completed a lesson on anti-bullying and/or drug free schools and then tied a red ribbon to the fence as a pledge.
 
During Safe Schools Week the school safety specialist and other teachers talked with a parent committee to address school safety concerns and questions. This information was then debriefed between the school safety specialist and principal. All these activities helped Mountain View staff and students fine-tune their safety strategies.
 
North Dayton School of Discovery
 
North Dayton School of Discovery partnered with its transportation company to do an assembly on bus safety and practiced bus evacuation drills. The local fire department visited North Dayton, where they did an assembly on fire safety with students. Afterwards, a few firefighters played basketball with some students.
 
Art Teacher Ms. Cresswell worked with students during the week creating a new art collage inspired by safety signage and shapes. The art was hung in the hall for display. North Dayton’s cheerleaders contributed to Safe Schools Week by hanging purple and orange ribbons to honor victims of violence. Students decorated the safety week coloring sheet, and some classes showcased them on their doors.
 
PrepNet Virtual Academy
 
PrepNet Virtual Academy got creative as every grade level spoke with students about fire safety at home. Students were reminded to check the batteries in their smoke alarms and all grade level students created a fire safety plan for their home. Students used a computer program to draw their home, identifying the location of windows, doors, and stairs. Students then explained how they would get out of their houses and where they would meet with family members once outside.
 
Queen’s Grant Community Schools
 
Queen’s Grant kicked off Safe Schools Week with a schoolwide assembly presented by its fourth graders. Scholars were encouraged to complete a safety poster and the middle school grades had an assembly on bully prevention and trained scholars on the “See Something, Say Something” app. On Oct. 17, students wore orange schoolwide for Unity Day and promoted kindness. A guest speaker from Sun Martial Arts spoke with students about the different types of bullying and how to be kind to one another. The school also practiced a lockdown drill schoolwide and completed daily 5-4-5 safety checks.
 
Rolesville Charter Academy
 
Team Rolesville had a great Safety Week with different experiences all week. The Rolesville Fire Department spoke with the kindergarten through second graders and brought its fire truck for students to tour. They discussed the importance of when to react in case of a fire and when to seek help from the fire and police departments. The entire school practiced a lockdown drill to make sure all students recognize how important drills are to keep everyone safe.
 
Rolesville also celebrated Unity Day and wore orange to show they say no to bullying. Students were able to complete their school safety activities in class and reflect on safety. Each class could select a time to meet at the Peace Pole with Principal Lowman to discuss the importance of unity and tolerance in their everyday lives.

Students meeting at the peace poleAt Rolesville Charter Academy, each class could select a time to meet at the Peace Pole with Principal Lowman to discuss the importance of unity and tolerance in our everyday lives.
 
Summerfield Charter Academy
 
At Summerfield, Principal Rudy Swofford’s friend Safety Man, who hangs out at school during safety week, visited the classrooms periodically. The students spun the “Wheel of Drill” and had to answer questions or conducted a drill. Also, the students decorated their doors.

Safety Man talking with studentsAt Summerfield Charter Academy, Principal Rudy Swofford’s friend, Safety Man, visited classrooms and had students spin the “Wheel of Drill.”
 
Walker Charter Academy
 
Walker Charter Academy participated in Safe Schools Week in a few different ways. Student artwork decorated the front entryway, along with the Safe Schools Week poster welcoming visitors. Safety Specialist and Dean Nikki Fife, the friendly neighborhood stop light, wished everyone a “Happy and Safe Schools Week” on the first day.
 
The school staff and students conducted their October fire drill and were joined by the Walker Fire Department, who also conducted an assembly and fire truck visit for the Young 5s through second grade students. An email was sent to families, highlighting the efforts of the school staff to ensure the safety of students and staff. Also, staff were encouraged to utilize their Wildcat Tickets to recognize students for safe and caring behavior to others throughout the week.

Dean Nikki Fife dressed as a stoplightWalker Charter Academy Safety Specialist and Dean Nikki Fife, the friendly neighborhood stop light, wished everyone a “Happy and Safe Schools Week!”
 
About National Heritage Academies
National Heritage Academies (NHA) is a network of over 95 tuition-free, public charter schools across nine states, serving more than 60,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.