September 20, 2018

Mio AuSable Schools addresses safety and security concerns

Posted

MIO — As students begin to stream into Mio AuSable Schools this week, they will be entering a facility that is markedly safer than it was the previous year.

Over summer vacation, new high school Principal Dennis Niles walked the grounds conducting what’s known as a Safe Haven assessment. It is an assessment that requires a person to examine every facet of a facility in order to assess safety and security concerns across the entire campus. The program originated with Safe Havens International, which is a group that does assessments for schools. Niles mirrored the practices of Safe Haven in creating this assessment. As Niles conducted the study, it did not cost the school any additional money than his salary.

Niles said the assessment examines things as small as the rubber padding designed to act as a safety cushion for the playground, and as large as having dead trees on campus.

“A big one that was obvious was having a secure front door,” Niles said. “Having the ability to buzz people in and see everyone who comes into the building is important.”

The assessment took roughly five days to complete. It consisted of two days examining every facet of the campus, from classroom doors to where utilities come into the building. The next three days consisted of going through the notes and pictures taken during the walkthrough and making recommendations in regards to what needs to be fixed immediately, and what can be put on the backburner.

Niles said he broke down the recommendations into three categories: red, yellow and green. Items marked red must be addressed immediately, yellow are less timely items and can be taken care of during regular maintenance, and green are items that can be worked on as the school has the time or funding available.

After the assessment Niles said he found Mio AuSable was in relatively good shape.

“For the most part there were more positive things, things in good shape, than there were negative things,” Niles said. “I found nine that needed to be immediately addressed and within two to three weeks we had taken care of those items.”

All of the repairs completed cost the school approximately $5,000. Included in that cost was tree removal, roof repair, the replacement of the front door and some other smaller repairs. Niles said the majority of that cost was taken up by the replacement of the front door, as the school had the equipment and manpower implement the fixes itself.

Niles said he thinks this is something every school should undertake, as it sets the tone for what is acceptable at a facility. He doesn’t believe it’s something that should be done every year, but thinks it’s important to have a reference point for the level of safety required of a school.

“I did it this year; being new it allowed me to get familiar with the facilities,” he said. “I was a fresh set of eyes and was able to see things someone else may have gotten used to and walked past before.”

Niles said there will be another assessment done within three to five years. His hope is to have someone else do the assessment next time in order to ensure a fresh set of eyes examines what he may have overlooked after becoming more familiar with the facilities. He mentioned a time when he traveled to another district’s school to do their assessment, alluding to how it would be nice to have an agreement with another school to do a similar assessment trade in the future.

Niles said the changes will be noticeable by parents on the first day of school. He said as the year progresses some of the yellow and green items will be addressed and parents will see those changes as they happen. He said even since the assessment was completed, faculty members are finding new things to pay attention to and address in order to continue to improve the facilities.

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