Rochester Public Schools received funding from the Minnesota Department Safety Grant for additional school security:
$28,000 for a door alarm system at Rochester Area Learning Center
$60,000 for a door alarm system at Ben Franklin elementary school.
A visitor to a Rochester Public Schools building is buzzed in after stating their name and purpose for being there. The visitor then is admitted to the office and presents a valid photo ID.
These kinds of barriers go only so far in building security. Students are being taught not to open an outside door to let someone in and bypass the front entrance. (Open campus at the high schools makes security more challenging but there are more barriers in place this yaer.)
Inside the school, students face challenges that can contribute negatively to their sense of safety and wellbeing. Many of these challenges do not originate in the school environment, yet are contributors to success (or lack thereof) in school.
Food insecurity. RPS partners in the backpack program so students have food on the weekends.
Homelessness/students in transition. Some of our older students may “couch surf,” staying with friends because they cannot go home for a multitude of reasons. RPS partners with Social Services to help these students be secure outside of school.
Alcohol/drug addiction. RPS partners with public health and other agencies in assisting students. They may not have health insurance or adequate insurance, or understand the assistance system.
Abuse. Parents, other family members or guardians who are abusive (emotionally, physically and sexually); perhaps not coping well with their own substance abuse; unemployed/unemployable, etc.
Mental health. Every year there are more students who need mental health services as well. Over several decades of teaching I saw an increase in students who were struggling with eating disorders, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, depression and loss of hope.
Teachers are trained to detect some of the warning signs of mental illness, especially those that indicate a danger of harm to others or self. We need more mental health professionals and counselors available to students, in and out of the school setting.
Our students are the future and the schools are charged with providing all students with a world-class education. If mental health and other issues are not addressed and at least mitigated, their academic and future success is in jeopardy.
It takes a community – the schools can’t do it alone. I’m encouraged by the current partnerships and look forward to increasing community involvement so that our students can be the best they can be.
Their future is dependent on us, now.
And our future is dependent on them, then.