As the York County School Board reviewed the school division’s school safety and mental health initiatives, it pitched its own thoughts and concerns while emphasizing the need for the division to be proactive in its practices and policies.
In February, about a week after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., members of the School Board asked for an update from school division staff about its safety and mental health offerings for students.
At Monday’s work session, school staff walked the board members through several different efforts and initiatives, including plans for installing security vestibules at school entrances and how teachers are asked to connect with the students they see every day and identify when someone may need help or attention.
Board members pointed out concerns and interjected with several questions after a pair of staff presentations.
Michael Anderson asked about possibly creating one entrance point at schools. Previously, Anderson said at Grafton High School, where his son attends, he’s been able to walk in the front door and didn’t feel there was a secure enough presence.
Jimmy Richardson, the board chairman, said a single entry point may not be possible with the amount of traffic, but that was a good discussion to have.
Barbara Haywood asked if the division had enough support staff — such as counselors, social workers and school psychologists on hand, saying if they needed more people, the board could look into that.
Staff members did not say they needed more, indicating that the division has more social workers than it once did, including one planned to be added in the upcoming year, and has been able to recover counseling jobs that were cut during the recession.
Haywood also asked if teachers and students felt safe in school, and James Carroll, the division’s head of human resources, said a survey of teachers found 95 percent felt safe.
Aaron Butler, the division’s head of school administration, referenced a Virginia school safety survey that measured safety at a regional and individual school level and said the results of the surveys were used to help each school figure out where it could improve.
Anderson asked if the board could see those results, and Butler said he had to check what was allowed to be released since the surveys contained specific student responses.
Later this year, Butler said, the division is planning to do focus groups with parents, students and school employees to gather input about safety in the schools.
Reyes can be reached by phone at 757-247-4692. Follow him on Twitter @jdauzreyes.