HVRSD School Board reinforces safety measures, plans discussions for fall

The Hopewell Valley Regional School District Board of Education reviewed the District’s safety procedures during its regular school board meeting this month and announced that a community meeting will be held October 20 at 6:30pm in the Community Room at Central High School on the topic.

Parents and community members can hear from Hopewell Township police as well as school safety and security district committee members at the meeting, and share any questions or concerns they may have about security procedures at school buildings and online. The conversation comes on the heels of a deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in May.

Superintendent Dr. Rosetta Treece said the District would not make any decision about arming campus security officers without public input, and that it is not something being explored at this time. She emphasized the importance of preventative steps the District has taken, such as an anonymous tip line that has been used to report suicide ideation and additional mental health resources for students. 

Schools also resumed safety drills this past year as the District moved back to full-time, in-person learning and has updated some safety trainings. Panic buttons were installed in each school building in key locations so that staff can quickly alert police to an emergency, and a swing-shift campus security officer is now available to cover after-school activities.

“We want everyone to feel safe in our buildings, and there’s a lot of things that we’ve put in terms of our resources towards that,” said Tana Smith, human resources director for the District. 

Her presentation to the board emphasized how schools are working closely with law enforcement to secure building access, improve incident response times and ensure uniformity in crisis response plans across school campuses. A new communications system being rolled out this fall will also consolidate alerts and allow staff to communicate across campuses more easily. 

The District plans to review its threat assessment protocols with administrators at a summer retreat.

Aside from the safety discussion, the school board heard from several community members concerned about the State’s new sexual education guidelines. As in past meetings, Dr. Treece said parents would be notified and allowed to opt out of sexual education and that no major changes were anticipated. She invited concerned parents to join their school’s DEI committees as a way of providing input on what is covered. They can do so by reaching out to the principal of their child’s school.

Board member Bill Herbert also gave an update on facilities upgrades occurring over the summer, including the installation of heat pumps and HVAC systems where needed. He said a state grant may be available to help pay for such projects, and that the district is working to make its projects “shovel ready” in case funds become available.

“We’re trying to value-engineer as many projects as we can,” Herbert said. “We may have to go with just replacing in kind instead of trying to become more energy efficient at this point.”

District staff are also filling open positions this summer and have hired three new administrators as well as 20 new instructional support staff members. Dr. Treece said parents should expect to hear about class placements for their children in late August.

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Ambreen Ali
Ambreen Ali is a freelance reporter who lives in Hopewell Township with her husband and their three children. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including The Washington Post, Bloomberg, Fortune Magazine, Agence France Presse, Edible Jersey and The Counter. Before moving to New Jersey she was a Congressional reporter for CQ Roll Call in Washington, DC, where her beats included tech policy and grassroots lobbying.

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