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School Safety

Harrisonburg City Public Schools is committed to ensuring the safety of our students and staff. 
We ask that parents and students report any potential threats to a school administrator or the Harrisonburg Police Department.  Safety at our schools is strengthened when educators, parents, and community members work together. 

If you have concerns, please feel free to call Mr. Craig D. Mackail, Executive Director of Operations and School Safety, at (540) 434-9916.  Or you may email Mr. Mackail.

HCPS Emergency Notifcations Hotline: (540) 437-0305

Please follow the links below for additional information:

Notifications to the School Community

Harrisonburg City Public Schools has established numerous ways to communicate with our parents, students and community members in the event of a School Safety incident:

Up-to-date information will be posted under the “Announcements” section of the HCPS website.

People can access the school division's Emergency Notifications Hotline by calling (540) 437-0305. A recorded announcement will be placed on this hotline with the most up-to-date information available.

Text messages (to individuals who have subscribed) will be sent with the most up-to-date information available.

Information will also be posted on the HCPS Twitter feed.

An automated phone call may also be placed in the event of a school safety incident to the entire school division or to specific school attendance zones.

The local media will also receive press releases as information becomes available.

Steps We're Taking to Improve Safety

Harrisonburg City Public Schools place school safety as a priority. The school division has developed specific teams of individuals who have specific assignments during a school safety incident. These teams are made up of school division employees as well as local fire and police department members. A HCPS Rapid Response Team has been established to enable the division to release information to our school community, the general public, and the media in a timely and accurate manner. This team will be activated whenever a school safety incident occurs.

In 2013, Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell convened the School and Campus Safety Task Force, which focused on improving safety in public schools, and on college and university campuses throughout the Commonwealth. Several pieces of legislation were passed by the 2013 Virginia General Assembly as a result of this task force, including HB 2346. Effective July 1, 2013, this new legislation requires all public schools in the Commonwealth to conduct school building safety inspections using a standardized walk-through checklist. HCPS has begun to conduct school building safety inspections. The inspections are conducted by HCPS administrators as well as members of the Harrisonburg Police and Fire Departments. The goal of the Safe School Audit Team is not only to conduct a school building safety review but to also gauge the overall safety climate of the building. This is accomplished by interviewing faculty, staff, students and administrators housed in the building. A comprehensive review of the safety protocols and procedures also takes place during the audit. A complete CPTED (Crime Prevention through Environmental Design) evaluation is also completed by trained CPTED evaluators. Upon completion of the School Safety Audit, a comprehensive report is submitted to the Superintendent of Schools. In conjunction with these audits a School Safety Task Force will be convened to review the results of the School Safety Audits. The School Safety Task Force will review the audits and make recommendations to the school division.

In the summer of 2013 modifications to 5 of our school buildings were made to increase the overall safety of the schools. Secure vestibules were constructed to prevent anyone from entering our buildings without first going in to the main offices. Incorporated within those renovations were additional measures to increase the overall safety of the building.

The school division also practices numerous drills throughout the school year to prepare our students and faculty in case a school safety issue occurs. Schools complete Fire Drills, Tornado Drills, Earthquake Drills, Bomb Drills and Lockdown Drills.

Tornado drill at Waterman Elementary

What Parents Can Do

School safety is not just the schools' responsibility.  To make our schools truly safe, we need help from the community. Safety principles begin at home. Speaking to your child about safety is very important. Take some time to sit down and speak to your children about what it means to be “safe” and answer any questions they may have about their safety.

You can help use keep our schools safe for all our students by you or your students reporting any potential threats to a school administrator or the Harrisonburg Police Department. Safety at our schools is strengthened when educators, parents, and community members work together.

Procedures Parents Should Follow In Case of School Safety Issue

Many times during a school safety issue or rumor of a school safety issue, parents will want to come to the school building to pick up their children and take them home. This is a natural reaction and is understandable. However, many times this is not the correct reaction. With the advent of social media, rumors are spread very quickly about school safety issues or incidents. Please be confident in the fact that all rumors circulating regarding a school’s safety are investigated by the Harrisonburg Police Department as well as school administrators. At no time will these rumors be ignored. If the Police Department and school administration feel that the rumors are credible, then the necessary steps will be taken to ensure the safety of all students. Reacting rashly to a rumor by removing your child from school early or not sending your child to school increases the legitimacy of that rumor. We ask that you base your decision to remove your child from school or not send your child to school on credible facts provided by the Police Department and school administration.

If Your Child’s School is Evacuated
There may be times that your child’s school is evacuated. In this case, the school division may hold the students in a safe area until the incident has been cleared and the school has been deemed safe for occupancy. In the rare event that your child must be moved to another safe location off of school grounds, the school division will provide directions to all parents regarding the procedures which will take place. These instructions will include: the location of the students, the plan for transporting the students home, the procedures for parent pick up of students (if desired), and any additional information specific to the incident.

If Your Child’s School is in Lock Down
Your student’s school may go into lock down for a number of reasons. The school will lock down if there is an imminent threat to the school and evacuation is not a viable option. The school may institute the lock down or the Harrisonburg Police Department may request that the school lock down. In either situation, we request that parents do not come to the school to try to pick up their students. In a lock down situation, the roads leading to the school building may be closed by the Police Department. Additional vehicles, as well as people on the school grounds, hinder the Police Department and the school administration from performing their duties. By definition, locking down a school prohibits anyone from entering the building or exiting the building until the lock down is lifted. The lock down may last minutes or hours depending upon the specific situation. During that time, the school division will do everything in its power to update all parents and members of the school community on the status of the lock down. Parents may be requested to meet at a designated area during the lock down. This location will be communicated to the parents once it is established.  School officials, as well as representatives from the Harrisonburg Police Department, will be at this location to answer any questions that you may have or to update you as they receive information.

If Your Child’s Bus is in an Accident
If your student’s bus is in an accident, you will be notified by phone or other means. The School Division has specific steps that must be taken during the bus accident to ensure that all children are accounted for and safe. We request that you do not come to the accident scene unless requested to do so. Additional vehicles as well as people may hinder the rescue personnel from performing their duties. If the school division requests that you come and pick up your child after the accident, you will be required to show the proper identification prior to the child being released to you. In all cases, the Harrisonburg Fire Department is in charge of the bus accident scene. The school division will follow their directives regarding the safety of the scene and the associated procedures needed to keep students safe.

If the School Division is Closed, Delayed or Dismissed Early

All public schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia are required to have at least 180 days of school. Schools may be closed, delayed or released early when the weather creates a situation which is hazardous to the students. The decision to close schools or delay schools will be made prior to 6:00 am. In rare cases, that decision may be delayed due to changing weather patterns. If schools are dismissed early, parents will receive notification as soon as the decision has been reached.

Harrisonburg City Public Schools uses Blackboard Connect Voice Messaging System to send information about school openings, closings and delays via telephone. Notifications about school openings, closings and delays will also be posted on the division's website. The automated calling system is populated from the division student information system; therefore, it is important that information maintained in that system is up-to-date and accurate. Please make sure that your child's school has current phone numbers and email addresses if you wish to receive automated division and school announcements.

Non-emergency phone calls are made to the first phone number listed for a student in our student information system. Duplicate phone numbers are not called.

Emergency phone calls are made to all phone numbers listed for a student in our student information system. However, once a phone is answered (live or answering machine/device) the remaining numbers for the student are not called.

NEW! Parents can now manage how they receive these notifications through the Connect Notification Portal. Your child's student ID number is needed to register for this. Instructions for setting up the Connect Portal are available in English and Spanish.

The school division cannot guarantee that announcements about school openings, closings, and delays will be delivered. Servers, including the HCPS server, may be out of service in severe weather situations. The absence of an announcement posted on the website and sent to parents/patrons via phone does not necessarily mean that there are no closings, delayed openings, or early dismissals. Consult with local radio and TV stations for additional information.

Additional Resources

These resources may be helpful to parents and educators: