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INFORMATIONAL LETTER: 34
POLICY CODE: JL1
TO: Superintendents of Schools
FROM: J. Duke Albanese, Commissioner
DATE: November 8, 2001
RE: Ensuring Safety in our Schools – Adequate Planning and Effective Information Exchange
Since September 11th, the nation has responded in an extraordinary way to ensure that our homes, workplaces, and schools remain safe as we go about our daily lives. To the educators of Maine, I salute your strong and effective efforts to “keep school” , ensuring that our school environments remain as normal as possible, taking the time for the teachable moment” that the events of September 11th and its aftermath have offered, and all the while instilling a sense of safeness for our children. Your work has been exceptional as you strive to maintain our schools in an atmosphere of normalcy that almost defies the news that we hear daily.
Some suggestions are in order as we all move forward together in these trying times.
First, be assured that our Department, in close cooperation with those state officials in charge of our safety and well-being, has established a back-up communication system in the event we are unable to reach all superintendents with urgent messages. In fact, we have been testing this back-up system, which uses a safe, secure location away from the Capitol campus and includes staff other than those of us at DOE.
In discussing our readiness with the Executive Committee of the Maine School Superintendents’ Association and the regional presidents, we’ve decided that school systems need to have back-up as well. To that end, I’m officially requesting that each superintendent appoint a designee who will be contacted along with the superintendent in an emergency situation. You should forward immediately, via e-mail, your designee’s name, title, e-mail address, and telephone number to Georgette Valliere in the Department of Education. Georgette can be reached at Georgette.Valliere@state.me.us or 624-6606.
Secondly, it would be prudent to carefully examine your crisis response plan(s), ensuring that its components are adequate, given the events that might challenge the safety of your schools, your staff, and your children. In particular, it is advisable to provide for evacuation of school sites, not just buildings. Your plans should coordinate with those of your local police and fire departments. I would recommend that you gather your respective administrative teams in a special meeting for this sole purpose in light of the new world in which we live following September 11th. Such a session would allow for the evaluation and fine tuning of present policy and protocols.
Third, continue to use the information that is available to you from a variety of government sources. A variety of factual information has already been provided directly to school nurses and health educators by our staff and by the Maine Bureau of Health. DeEtte Hall, DOE school nurse consultant, can also be a resource for general health-related information. DeEtte can be reached at DeEtte.Hall@state.me.us or 624-6688. We will direct schools to websites established by the Bureau of Health here in Maine and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. I cannot overstate the importance of good, accurate information as we deal with threats to our well-being.
On the one hand, I urge that you be vigilant and not complacent about the safety of Maine schools and our children. On the other hand, keep up your terrific efforts to provide our children with important safe havens where teaching and learning persist.