Safety Portal

 

Dear Boston Collegiate Charter School Community,

In light of the incidents that continue to occur in schools across our nation which threaten the safety of our nation’s youth, I want to highlight this webpage as a visual signal and reminder of our school’s commitment to keeping your student(s) safe each day and to communicating our plans for school safety. I further want to thank the Committee on Academic and Student Affairs, comprised jointly of BCCS parents, students, teachers, and Board members, for their thoughtful work on the issue of school safety (minutes linked here).

The Context

Earlier this semester, we experienced a significant concern about safety at our Mayhew Street campus based on comments that were rumored to have been made by a student in the high school about intent to harm other students. The concerns, and the lack of proactive communication from the school, led many students to be dismissed on Tuesday, March 6th. Though our internal investigation and the Boston Police Department’s investigation determined there was no evidence of a threat, the event illuminated a need for improved communications between our school staff and our students and families regarding safety.

On Wednesday, March 7th, and on Monday, March 12th, we held Family Meetings, inviting parents and family members to come together to debrief and to problem solve how to best move forward. Thank you to those who were able to attend – your honest feedback was helpful to our staff in thinking about how to improve our practices and also how to share information with our families more widely, and also most appropriately. We committed to sharing our updated thinking and steps taken, which you will find below:

  • Updated Communication Protocols
    • Families and staff have asked for a text alert if there were to be an emergency at BCCS. Our current family communication system– the one we use for auto calls– already allows for this, and we can put it in place for safety concerns.
    • Families have further asked for auto-calls from the school to have the same text as an email and for emails to have appropriate subject-headers. Text messages and auto-calls require brevity that is not always possible in emails. That said, we will strive for consistent communication across all modes of communication.
    • We are vetting staff text communication tools to ensure another approach to alerting staff to concerns without using the intercom system; this should be in place by the end of the year.
    • We have committed to be in touch with families every time we contact the school police with a safety concern, even a minor one, if the communication will not further jeopardize an investigation or school safety. We know that this may lead to much more communication between school and home, so please be patient as we work this out and err on the side of over-communication. This will be in place immediately.
    • There has further been a request for ready-made emails that could be used in an emergency and shared with families (where additional information could be added but the main body addresses the critical points).  For example: students on a stay-put, threat nearby the school, called-in bomb threat, etc. These are being drafted and will be in place by May 15th.
  • Updated Safety Communication Technology
    • As we noted in our family meetings, the following changes have been made or are being made:
      • Video camera system throughout both buildings (web-based, so anyone with access can view the feeds of the cameras). We are reviewing the list of BCCS staff who have access to ensure that there are enough people throughout each building with access to view in an emergency.
      • Updated intercom system that covers classrooms, offices, and hallways at both campuses.
      • A new phone system at our Sydney Street campus which can be linked to our new intercom system and can serve as an additional method of making mass announcements. This summer, the phones at our Mayhew Street campus will be replaced as well.
      • Phone applications that allow designated staff members to make announcements from their computers and cell phones. Staff is being trained on making announcements from cell phones as appropriate.
  • Updated Safety Response Protocols
    • We disbanded our policy of practicing Lockdown drills in January 2017 based on a training we received from the Boston Police Department. The rationale behind this was that, unfortunately, a high percentage of attacks on schools come from within the school.
    • To be clear, though: all BCCS staff have been trained on our active shooter approach, recommended through our training by the Boston Police Department, which is “Run, Hide, Fight.”
    • In March, after the aforementioned events, we conducted a Safety Audit at each campus to pressure test our current practices.
    • We are scheduling another walk-through of each campus with the Boston Police Department to make sure that we are not missing any details of protecting our students and school community in an active shooter scenario. This should be complete by May 30th.
    • We are working with other charter schools to be trained in ALICE, a more comprehensive approach before the 2018-2019 school year.
  • Updated Building Entry Protocols
    • Last summer, we built a Welcome Office at the Mayhew Street campus, which now provides an additional layer of security by requiring that guests first buzz into the lobby area, where they are greeted by one of our Office Managers, and are then buzzed into the main body of the school. Previously, we used a camera system to buzz guests in from the upper floor.
    • We are being vigilant with guest/visitor sign-in and sign-out documentation.
    • We have begun conversations to consider metal detectors as a potential (but unlikely) option.

Lastly, but most importantly, we believe that our best safety measures are the preventive ones. Our teachers and staff understand the importance of building relationships with our students to help them succeed not only in academics but also in the social and emotional challenges that adolescence poses. Knowing our students is not an addendum to our work; it is the work. For this reason we have hired another full-time counselor for our Mayhew Street campus to begin this spring.

As I mentioned to families at the family meeting, every day I stroll my two boys, who are nearly one and three-years-old, into a building that says Boston Collegiate Charter School on it to go to the staff nursery program at our Sydney Street campus. Keeping all of our children safe is my absolute highest priority. You should expect excellence from Boston Collegiate, and please hold us accountable for it.

I look forward to the continued conversations we will have as we strive together to improve Boston Collegiate Charter School and the experience we provide daily for our students and the communication we provide to our families.

Warmly,

Shannah Varón
Executive Director

Safety Contacts

  • If your student(s) encounter bullying, we urge them to reach out to us at our designated email account, reportbullying@bostoncollegiate.org.
  • If you have a recommendation for an improvement to school safety or a recommendation for our Safety Portal, please email Teresa Rodriguez, our Director of Family and Community Relations, at trodriguez@bostoncollegiate.org.

Committee on Academic and Student Affairs