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Layered Supports and Investments, Informed by Experts, to Promote the Health and Safety of our Students and Staff

stick figures holding hands in circleAt Charlottesville City Schools, our top priority is the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff. Experts from the fields of school security, mental health, and public safety agree that the foundation of school safety is a commitment to wellness and a positive school culture.

Through a committee and community engagement process, in 2021 the Board approved a new safety plan focusing on:

  • Strengthening our community and relationships
  • Growing our mental health supports (we doubled our mental health staffing in 2021)
  • Hiring and training care and safety assistants  – community mentors  who are trained school security officers, with skills in areas such as de-escalation
  • Partnering with the community, including situations when police will still come to schools to promote safety
  • Investing in upgrades to building security

Links to Family Safety Resources

Board Postpones Decision about Youth Resource Officers Until May 2025

May 30 Update: Board Votes to Postpone Decision on Youth Resource Officers Until March 2025
The Board voted unanimously to postpone a decision on adding Youth Resource Officers to the CCS safety plan until March 27, 2025 to allow time for further engagement as well as progress reports in October and December.

May 18 Update: Board Places Youth Resource Officers on May 30 Agenda

At the Saturday, May 18, School Board work session, the Board reviewed information about the possibility of adding to our current safety model several “youth resource officers” from the Charlottesville Police Department (CPD). The information – presented by Dr. Gurley and Police Chief Kochis – was generated by a working group after a February safety survey showed that 60% of respondents “strongly” or “very strongly” supported exploring the possibility of having these specially trained officers in our schools and the community (vs. 25% "strongly" or "very strongly" opposed to learning more). 

This possible partnership with police would focus on diversion from the criminal justice system and would borrow elements from the world of social work to address student and family needs. Saturday’s presentation and discussion focused on the possibility of hiring three officers (these positions are not currently reflected in either the City or the Schools budget). The three officers – one for CHS, one for Buford, and one to support evening activities at school or in the community – would be trained in areas such as youth development, de-escalation, and mental health. The new Memorandum of Understanding with CPD would reflect key changes, including that the schools would have a voice in the hiring of the youth resource officers.

At the end of the discussion, the Board voted to place this item on the agenda for its May 30 meeting. At this time, the Board will vote on whether youth resource officers will be included in the school safety model. FIND FULL MESSAGE HERE.

May 14 Update: Board to Discuss Youth Resource Officers at May 18 Work Session

As part of our efforts to continually evaluate and improve our work to promote safety in our schools, the Board will be discussing the possibility of adding “youth resource officers” to our schools at the May 18 work session. A safety survey conducted in February indicated that 60 percent of respondents “strongly” or “very strongly” supported exploring the possibility of having these specially trained officers in our schools and the community. There are key differences between Youth Resource Officers and the School Resource Officers who were in our schools until 2020.

  • Find slides here

  • Find information about the Youth Resource Officer model compiled by the Health Equity Research Lab. Keep in mind that this information is intended as a reference; if Charlottesville moves forward with Youth Resource Officers, the schools and the community may not implement all the features from this document.

  • Attend the Board meeting: You can participate in public comment during the work session by attending in person at CATEC (1000 E Rio Road). The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30am.

Brief Overview

Review the slides from our Family University event about school and community safety (December 2022).

Superintendent Committee on School Safety/Security Resources

In the fall of 2020, then-superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins appointed a number of superintendent committees to provide recommendations in three areas (COVID-19, school names, and school safety).  The committee for school safety/security resources was prompted in part by the schools and the Charlottesville Police Department jointly ending our 2016 Memorandum of Understanding for School Resource Officers (SRO’s). The committee’s goal was to recommend the best path forward.

Thanks to our community members and all those who  shared your feedback. You can still find the committee’s materials on this page.

The final recommendation was to establish a team of care and safety assistants (CSAs) with deep relationships in the community to be an extra set of hands in the hallways and oversee safety  practices. The CSAs are trained in areas such as de-escalation, teen mental health first aide, safety procedures, and more. The plan also places more mental health professionals in our schools.  And finally, the plan relies on community partnership, including situations when police will still come to schools to promote safety. Find our CCS/Charlottesville Police Department Protocols – MOU (2021).

Read below to learn more about specific ways we work to promote the safety and wellbeing of our school communities.

  • color run photoCharlottesville City Schools recognizes the strong link between a child’s social, emotional, and physical health and their ability to learn. Schools also play an important role in teaching children about wellness.

    Click Here

    In 2016, our school division won a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Award in recognition of our policies in place to promote healthy choices for our students and staff. We have also won national recognition for our attention to mental wellness through social and emotional learning programs and our systems of positive supports.

    Our 2017-23 Strategic Plan places a strong emphasis on “Safe and Supportive Schools,” with specific goals for social, emotional, and physical wellness. One outcome of this plan was to double the number of mental health practioners in our schools to meet our students’ needs in 2021.

    The School Health Advisory Board—made up of health professionals, community agencies, parents, educators and students—advises the School Board in the development and evaluation of our state-recognized Wellness Policy and programs that support the health and well-being of students, families, and school staff.

    More Information: Click Here


    Sample Partners and Related Programs:

  • teachers leading student play One of the goals for Charlottesville City Schools is to promote a positive and inclusive culture in our learning communities.  Relationships are at the heart of a thriving community and are also key to promoting safety.  We strive to encourage strong relationships among and between staff, students, and families through mentoring and other initiatives.

    Examples include:

    • A strong sense of community is at the heart of our division-wide framework for supporting students’ academic, behavioral, and mental health needs (Virginia Tiered Systems of Support and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports). Both Johnson Elementary and our alternative learning center, Lugo-McGinness Academy, have led the way as we establish practices that build community, encourage good behavior, and deepen relationships.
    • From school-wide meetings at Venable to Fun Fridays at Clark, our elementary schools promote a positive sense of community. Need another example? How about the “welcome back” field days at the start of each semester at Burnley-Moran.
    • We believe in mentoring, whether that means Buford eighth-graders serving as reading buddies at neighboring Johnson Elementary, upperclassmen at CHS welcoming ninth-graders through Link Crew, or teachers, coaches, and community leaders guiding students at every step of the way.
    • Our school counselors foster social-emotional health in a variety of ways. They offer classroom lessons, such as Walker students guiding their blindfolded partners to solve jigsaw puzzles. In 2021. we doubled the size of our mental health staff. Social-emotional learning is also part of our curriculum, and trauma-responsive practices are in place in all our schools.
    • Relationships (and reading skills) can deepen even during the summer through our teachers’ and librarians’ Books on Bikes program! The BoB team visits neighborhoods to deliver free books, popsicles, and smiles. (A therapy dog even makes the rounds!)
    • Parents are a big part of our school communities, whether through staying connected, volunteering, or attending  events such as Doughnuts with Dad at Johnson. We are proud to have a Family Engagement Coordinator and are so grateful for the good work of our active PTOs!
    • Clubs, athletics, and our amazing fine arts programs also build relationships and community.
    • An award-winning and comprehensive commitment to wellness — from mental health to outdoor gardens — lays the foundation for our community-building.

    Related Information

    • During 2020-21, Charlottesville City Schools convened a committee to gather feedback, research options, and make a recommendation for a new plan for school safety. As part of the new model, in August 2021, Charlottesville City Schools hired and trained a team of Care and Safety Assistants with deep relationships in the community to be an extra set of hands in the hallways and oversee safety  practices. The CSAs are certified school security officers trained in areas such as de-escalation, teen mental health first aide, safety procedures, and more.
    • The new model for safety also places more mental health professionals in our schools. In addition, the plan calls for schools to engage in intentional community-building to foster good relationships, which safety experts say is the most foundational and impactful tool to promote safety. Finally, the plan relies on community partners such as the police to promote safety. Find our CCS/Charlottesville Police Department Protocols – MOU (2021).
    • School safety is not limited to the school day. We are a model of community partnership for areas such as mental health (partnering with Region 10 to provide no-fee counselors at CHS, Buford, and Walker); trauma-informed practices (co-founding and partnering with the Charlottesville Trauma Network for staff training and agency consistency); and community policing (working with the Charlottesville Police Department). Find our CCS/Charlottesville Police Department Protocols – MOU (2021).
  • CCS Logo

    School leaders work throughout the year evaluating security measures and planning for crises and emergencies. Safety is our top priority. We work with local first-responders, develop building-specific security procedures, and participate in emergency management training and activities.

    Our plans include:

    1. Training for all employees
    2. Encouraging a culture of “see something, say something”
    3. Routine safety drills
    4. Building-specific security procedures and annual safety audits
    5. A team of care and safety assistants who build relationships with students, staff, and the community and who promote a safe school atmosphere
    6. Strong and expanded school-based staffing of counselorssocial workers, and psychologists (in 2021, we doubled the number of mental health professionals in our schools.)
    7. Threat assessment teams at all schools
    8. Surveillance cameras, screening procedures for visitors, buzz-in entrances, lighting/locking upgrades, and standardized exterior door signage to assist first responders
    9. Continued awareness of local or national events and their impact
    10. Participation in local emergency management activities and drills with government, school, and public health officials
    11. Attendance at school safety conferences to stay in step with best practices
    12. Partnering with the community, including situations when police come to schools to promote safety.

    These emergency plans complement our larger goals for promoting safety by building systems of supports for all students, promoting wellness, and creating a positive school culture.

  • There are concrete steps you can do now to make sure you stay informed and to help create a positive community.

    • Keep your contact info up-to-date. Has your telephone number or email address changed? Contact your school!
    • Customize how you hear from us – choose phone, email, or text! Log in to PowerSchool and click on “School Messenger.”
      • For help creating your PowerSchool login, call your school secretary or registrar.
    • Stay connected with your school’s PTO!
    • Talk to your children about school safety, particularly when there has been a national incident. Click here for tips from the National Association of School Psychologists.
    • Follow the national conversation on school safety and gun violence. Advocate as you see appropriate. One resource is national researchers’ multi-disciplinary call for action to end gun violence.
    • Safely store your medicines and guns. Region 10 offers information and free equipment.
    • You may wish to talk to your children about situational awareness, whether they are at school or elsewhere. One example is Run, Hide, Fight on the federal government’s website.