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Starting the school year with well-maintained facilities and sturdy structures will help your students and staff begin on the right foot. It is also a great way to see what, if any, equipment or machinery needs to be replaced or fixed. Use this Back-to-School Safety Guide to help you take advantage of the last couple weeks before classes resume, and the halls are filled again with young learners.
A Sturdy Foundation: Preparing School Grounds
Start with the foundation and prepare your school grounds for the return of students. With the help of your staff, check all parking lots, sidewalks, driveways, fields, and stairs. These areas often receive the most wear and tear throughout the school year. Worn or deteriorated areas can cause injury if they are not smooth, sturdy, and obstacle-free. As your staff assists in the review, make notes of any cracks, holes, or loose rails that need to be fixed or replaced before the school year begins.
This is also an excellent time to address any loose or broken pieces of playground and sports equipment. Make sure all playground equipment is safe for use and spaced far enough apart for children to play without becoming injured. For sporting equipment, verify that there is a place for locking up loose items when not in use. This precaution can prevent theft or injury of a student using the equipment after hours and without supervision.
Parents and Student Orientation
The orientation and welcome meeting with parents and students is an excellent opportunity to address crucial elements of student safety and answer any questions parents may have. Additionally, this is when your staff could introduce any new policies or regulations that will come into effect during the new year. Consider also emailing or providing printouts of essential forms for distribution to the parents to help them prepare ahead of time. You can also direct parents to the school website to find these forms in the future. Confirm that current forms are uploaded to the website and easily accessible.
Remind parents of the importance of informing the school of any allergies, special conditions, or medications for their child. This information should be on file by the time the school year begins to allow staff to properly attend to the child should an incident occur. Remind parents to update emergency contact information, so school officials know whom to contact in the case of an incident.
Review drop-off and pick-up practices for parents. Parents should know the locations where it is acceptable to drop off their child. Is the drop-off only at the front entrance of the school? Is there a secondary entrance supervised by school staff to ensure the safe arrival of students? Parents should also make sure the school has an updated, approved list of names and contact information to whom the school is allowed to release the child. These details will help prevent any issues throughout the school year if a child needs to be picked up by someone other than a parent.
If parents plan to have their child drive to school themselves, make sure to review your school’s policy on student drivers. Are there any particular forms or permissions that need to be acquired by the school before the start of the year? Is there a specific section of the parking lot where student drivers must park? Do you have an identification sticker that all student drivers must have on their car for security purposes?
Address similar questions for any parent who plans to have their child cycle or walk to school. Both parent and student drivers should be alert and aware of walkers and cyclists while waiting in the drop-off line or when parking their cars. Inform parents of any designated areas for cyclists to lock their bikes. It might also be a good idea to ask parents to inform the school of whether their child will walk, drive, or cycle to school each day.
If parents plan to have their child ride the bus to school, review pick-up and drop-off guidelines for the bus as well as the specified routes for your school.
Prep, Review, Repeat
Now that your school grounds, parents, and students are ready for the start of the school year, it is time to create a plan to maintain a safe environment throughout the year. Maintenance checks and self-inspections are two critical elements to minimizing incidents, losses, and catching a potential hazard before it occurs. To get started, use ARM’s School Self-Inspection Form to conduct maintenance checks twice a year and after any major storms or weather events.
This material is fact based general information provided by Adventist Risk Management®, Inc. and should not, under any circumstances, be modified or changed without prior permission. It should not be considered specific legal advice regarding a particular matter or subject. Please consult your local attorney or risk manager if you would like to discuss how a local jurisdiction handles specific circumstances you may be facing.
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