Recent events have all of us concerned about maintaining safe environments for our students and our staff. It feels like this is becoming an all too common occurrence.

Many ask, what can we do? How can we prevent this from happening in our school or our community? Sometimes these conversations lead us into frustrating and emotional political conversations. But I think it is important to talk about what we are doing, and what we’ve done here as a community – that, I believe, sets us apart.

This community has been very supportive of the school district, and has made a financial commitment to increasing security at all of our buildings.

The voters approved a capital projects levy in the fall of 2013. Part of those dollars fund technology in our schools, but significant portions of that have provided the installation of secured entrances. In the initial year that was nearly $2 million to create secured entrances and install visitor management software.

Each year, that levy has provided approximately $250,000 to maintain, repair, and update software, cameras, and access hardware. We have invested additional dollars, outside of the referendum fund, to upgrade and secure school main offices.

We have strong relationships with our local emergency response providers. We frequently include them in reviewing plans, policies, and training. Our local law enforcement agencies respond quickly and seriously to matters of student safety. The SROs (school resource officers) are valued team members at our high schools, and provide support to the rest of our schools.

This is all part of the visible work we do to make schools the safest possible places for students. However it’s only half of the equation. A comprehensive program also involves developing healthy students and supportive community members. Our broader community has made various commitments over time that directly benefit our young people today.

One important step was establishing three high schools. In addition to Chaska High School, Chanhassen High School opened in 2009 and Integrated Arts Academy opened in 2012. Creating smaller schools provides more opportunities for students to be engaged in school activities, and develop more positive relationships with staff in the building.

We know that students who are involved in school activities, or have developed a positive relationship with an adult in the building, are more likely to graduate from high school and post-secondary with higher levels of achievement and fewer discipline issues.

Our district has also developed partnerships within the community to support mental health. We work with Carver County to share locations for services for their social workers and our counselors. There is also a partnership with the Two Twelve Medical Center and PrairieCare that can support outpatient treatment for students with mental health needs. Our district also has one of the lowest counselor-to-student ratios in the area.

All of these supports work in tandem to create safe learning environments and support healthier students. Our community has invested in our schools to make them exceptional, and safe, places to learn, and we will continue the conversations on improving student safety.

— Superintendent, Clint Christopher