At The River School, we take the safety of children, faculty, staff and visitors very seriously and work closely with police, fire and security experts to ensure that we have the appropriate measures in place. Due to our proximity to MacArthur Boulevard, we have established a higher level of security than most area schools. While we can never prevent or predict every emergency, we employ best practices to ensure the safety of our community.
Information we considered and resources we accessed when developing our safety and security plan included the following:
Accreditation Safety and Crisis Plan
The Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools (AIMS) is our accrediting organization and as part of the accreditation process an Emergency and Crisis plan is required. Every five years, the visiting team reviews and gives feedback on the plan and observes our emergency drills. Drills are timed and procedures are scrutinized. Because our facility has at least two exits on each floor, we are consistently able to evacuate the building in approximately three minutes.
Security and Emergency Preparedness Audit
A highly qualified security consultant and former employee of U.S. Department of Homeland Security conducted an audit of our security and emergency preparedness. He toured the facility, reviewed our crisis management plan and interviewed our security team. He made recommendations that have all been implemented:
- web cams on all our entrances
- visitor check-in and badges
- visitor exit from the lobby only
- evacuation plan for all emergency situations; shelter in place for weather related emergencies only
Secured and Monitored Entrances
All external doors are kept locked 24 hours a day and require a code to be opened. The doors are monitored by eight live video cameras enabling continual monitoring. Visitors may only enter and exit the building through the front lobby where they receive a visitor badge.
Professional Crossing Guards and Staff
Two professional retired D.C. police officers oversee our carpools. They are engaged in our community and check in daily with our staff to review any relevant internal or external issues that could impact the school. A team of people work alongside the carpool staff to receive and dismiss students safely.
Emergency and Crisis Plans
We have a detailed emergency and crisis plan in place that specifies intervention for various scenarios, including evacuation and shelter in place. The plan is reviewed and updated frequently. Communication tools are established that allow us to immediately notify parents about emergencies and the steps being taken. We have supplies stored in the building for a shelter in place situation and regularly conduct evacuation drills.
Reciprocal Agreement with St. Patrick’s
We have an agreement with St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School to share resources during an extended shelter in place. We also serve as evacuation sites for each other should one of our buildings needs to close.
Annual Licensing Inspections
The D.C. Fire Marshall regularly inspects our building and makes recommendations on our evacuation plan, to which we adhere. Annual inspections of our elevator, sprinkler system and other HVAC systems help ensure the safety of the building.
Employee Education and Training
Emergency evacuation drills are conducted regularly involving the entire school. Faculty and staff are trained each year in safety precautions, emergency procedures and health and safety, including CPR, First Aid and AED. In addition, all of our employees are subjected to three different background checks upon hiring and must receive annual health and fitness exams.
Ease of Classroom Observation
Initial renovation of our building added windows and glass walls to provide easy visual monitoring of our classroom spaces. The glass walls allow administrators and supervisors to easily observe teachers interacting with children, step in when teachers need help and monitor children’s classroom interactions. Interns, graduate students and volunteers are never left alone with children.
The Role of Community Vigilance in School Safety and Security
The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) counsels school leaders to build their security plans around community vigilance, and warns against relying on technology or hired safety officers which can provide a false sense of security. It takes the awareness of teachers, parents and administrators working together to truly ensure a safe and secure environment at school. The employee to student ratio at River and our tight-knit community contribute to a safe, secure and nurturing environment for young children.