TOPEKA — Each school day, America’s schools are providing a safe and healthy learning environment for about 55 million public and nonpublic school students. To highlight the importance of a safe and secure school setting, Gov. Laura Kelly has proclaimed Oct. 17-23 as America’s Safe Schools Week.
Beginning Monday, Oct. 18, the Kansas State Department of Education will share information through news releases and social media posts on Facebook and Twitter about school safety topics.
Monday will focus on Emergency Operations Plans (EOP), and Tuesday will highlight the importance of mental health. On Wednesday, learn more about the nine drills all schools have to conduct, and on Thursday learn about a partnership between KSDE and other agencies to create a reporting tool for schools and communities. Friday’s message will center on the importance of a strong recovery plan.
Emergency Operations Plan (EOP)
An Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) can help prepare school personnel, as well as first responders, for emergency situations. However, these types of plans aren’t just for “major incidents,” said Ron Jeanneret, director of school safety and chief of police for Topeka Public Schools Police Department, Topeka Unified School District 501.
“The plan is useful in all situations,” Chief Jeanneret said.
An EOP provides structure and processes that a school district can utilize to respond to and initially recover from an event.
“It dictates a response for all the hazards that could occur – during the emergency and after,” Jeanneret said.
Ron Brown, former TPS Police chief, did a “complete overhaul” of the district’s plan about 10 years ago, Jeanneret said. The current chief is in the process of reviewing the plan and discussing it with other partners, such as the Topeka Police Department, Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office, the Kansas State Department of Education’s (KSDE) Safe and Secure Schools Unit.
“We review it every two years,” Jeanneret said. “I think that’s a good timeframe. I’m seeking input from everywhere to make it the best plan we can.”
A good plan should identify all risks and hazards around a school, he added.
In Kansas, that could be any one of 22 hazards, according to John Calvert, director of KSDE’s Safe and Secure Schools team. Everything from an agriculture infestation, tornadoes and civil disorder to drought, earthquakes, extreme temperatures and soil erosion.
It also is important for districts to seek input from their administrators, school board president, maintenance crews, principals, Information Technology staff and even custodial staff members.
“Many have worked in the building for years and know where everything is at,” Jeanneret said.
Several of the state’s larger school districts have EOPs or crisis plans in place, said KSDE’s Jim Green, a school safety specialist for the Safe and Secure Schools team. However, it is important for smaller school districts to have plans in place, too. And it’s even more important to practice using the EOPs once they are put in place. Each school district in Kansas is required to conduct nine drills throughout the school year – two tornado drills (September and March); three crisis drills; and four fire drills.
Green and Calvert can help schools and districts develop and/or update EOPs and crisis plans.
Plans should include five mission areas, Green said: prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery.
“We take the time to sit down with schools and school districts to help review, enhance or create new plans that support these five missions, while identifying and prioritizing hazards that would be common in that area,” Green said.
For more information, visit https://www.ksde.org/Kansas-Safe-Schools.
“By having plans in place to keep students and staff safe, schools play a key role in taking preventative and protective measures to stop an emergency from occurring or reduce the impact of an incident,” Calvert said.