BRIDGEWATER – The crisis prevention and response policy for the town’s only school is undergoing a significant revision and, in light of recent school violence across the nation, officials are stressing the importance of being prepared.
Jeff Bearden, assistant superintendent for the Bridgewater School Department, said the policy was in line for revision; administrators have been working on it since spring. He said recent events at small, rural schools – such as shootings and hostage situations – have highlighted the importance of having a specific plan that addresses several scenarios. The three-member Bridgewater School Committee did its first official reading of the policy last week and plans to consider it for adoption at its November meeting.
Bearden said the newly revised policy comes with administrative guidelines that provide step-by-step procedures for a number of different crisis-response plans, including one for bomb threats.
“If there was a crisis at Bridgewater, the person in charge, the secretary and the lead teacher would go right to their crisis plan,” Bearden said. “Depending on the crisis, people in the building will know what to do exactly to protect the children in the school.”
Bearden pointed out that the old policy was generic and did not include administrative guidelines. The revised policy is based on information schools received from the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Bearden said that especially in light of recent events, school officials cannot assume they’re safe because of their small, rural locations.
“The past week has shown these things can happen no matter where you live. They happen in small, rural schools all over our country,” Bearden said. “It’s imperative that every school system across the country look at such plans, make sure the policy is current, and that people are trained to know what to do.
“You have to take it seriously. You hope it never does happen, but you have to be prepared for it in case it does.”
Also during the meeting, the school committee:
. Voted unanimously to oppose the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The board now is asking town residents to vote no on Question 1 on Nov. 7.
TABOR limits government spending and requires that budget increases above a set amount, as well as tax rate and fee increases, be approved through an override process that includes a two-thirds vote of the legislative body and a referendum election.
“TABOR is going to hurt schools,” Bearden said.
The spending restriction formula for schools involves using the Consumer Price Index adjusted by student enrollment changes from the previous year.
In a town like Bridgewater, with steadily decreasing enrollment figures, Bearden said officials expect TABOR would force decreases to the school budget.
Supporters of the measure have said TABOR tries to slow down spending by letting above-limit increases go back to voters for approval by a simple majority. They say the current tax reform situation is not working.
. Received a new school bus after signing a five-year lease purchase agreement for it. The new bus, which cost about $58,000, was on the road as of last week. It replaced a 12-year-old bus, which will be sold along with an old school van the school used to fulfil transportation needs.