WESTFIELD, NJ — The Westfield School District continues to work to increase awareness of new security protocols, provide information about the possibility of full-day kindergarten and improve communications with the community, Superintendent Margaret Dolan said Tuesday.
The district overhauled its security procedures earlier this year following the arrest of an armed man on the grounds of Tamaques school. All secretaries and custodians received specialized training on the new procedures over the summer, and staff members continue to receive security training on an annual basis, Dolan said at the board's annual reorganization meeting.
Dolan said that getting the word out about the changes was a top priority as the year began.
“Since they were new, we really spent a great deal of time trying to make sure that every part of our community understood the changes,” she said, including by holding public meetings and sending emails to parents and staff members.
Dolan said she is pleased with the community’s response to the new procedures. “I so appreciate the fact that our parents are following the new protocols and are supporting them,” Dolan said. “We really do appreciate that support.”
The district has also reviewed its crisis communication plan, Dolan said, and is working on one-page visuals to explain security drills.
Dolan said discussions continue within the district about the possibility of full-day kindergarten.
“This is definitely an ongoing situation,” Dolan said. “We continue to look to make sure we are fully analyzing all of our options before going forward.”
Last June, the board recommended the district put forth a March 2020 referendum that would secure part of the funding needed for a full-day kindergarten program starting in September 2022. In December, board member Amy Root, who chairs the board’s long-range planning committee, said the committee is exploring other options before the board decides whether or not to move forward with the referendum.
The district has set up a webpage with background information about the potential for full-day kindergarten in Westfield.
Dolan said the district is focused on driving greater traffic to its website. The website had 67,871 visitors in the month of December, Dolan said.
In addition, the district launched a quarterly newsletter last October, which was sent to 6,425 parents by email. The first newsletter focused on safety and security, while the second, sent earlier this month, focused on mental health and wellness.
“We’ve tried to present the information the district is doing and working on to the parents,” Dolan said. “We are very pleased that the first one that we sent out had a 60% open rate, and from what I understand the industry open rate is 26%.”
Dolan encouraged the public to interact with and follow the district’s social media accounts.
The district’s first Facebook page was taken down last May due to a change in Facebook’s Terms of Service.
“The way it was established was not linked to a personal Facebook page, and Facebook decided those would no longer exist,” Dolan said.