Ontario Government Introduces Safe Welcome Program

A new Safe Welcome Program is being introduced across the province as the first in a series of initiatives this fall to make Ontario schools safer, Education Minister Gerard Kennedy said today.
“Parents should know that all elementary schools will now be able to ensure that the only people coming in and out of the school are those who belong there,” said Kennedy. “Our overall programming plan has increased the number of new staff in schools and meets the requests of principals and parent councils for better entry security.”
The Safe Welcome Program is the first of several steps to be introduced this fall under the Safe Schools Action Plan. The program relates to how visitors can gain access to schools and how visitors are screened and directed to the office.
To improve student safety, there are also approximately 11,000 new staff in Ontario’s publicly funded schools. As well, 878 elementary schools across the province are installing security access devices. The devices, like apartment video intercom entry systems, will be installed in schools where the main office is not within sight of the main entrance. The new devices will help office staff monitor who is entering schools and will complement other
existing safety programs.
The government is acting on the needs identified through safety audits which were provided to every school in 2004 to raise awareness of safety and security issues in and around schools. As part of the Safe Schools Action Plan, the government is providing schools with the tools, policies and funding needed to make them safer, better places to learn.
“This will help schools to be hubs of their community by continuing to engage parents and community members in activities, while ensuring the safety of students is preserved,” said Kennedy.
Precious Blood Catholic Elementary School is among the 101 schools in the Toronto Catholic District School Board that have installed a security access device through government funding. The school also has student safety patrollers, recess door monitors, a reflective mirror in the front office and teacher monitors on buses.
“The security access device frees staff to focus on students and their job without the worry of intruders,” said Rose Greenaway, secretary at Precious Blood Catholic School.
“I don’t have to be concerned about who is coming in and out of the school – I know.”
The school safety audits also found that, although most Ontario schools are safe, there are still areas left for improvement:

– 63 per cent of elementary schools reported that they could see the
main entrance from the school office. The remaining 37 percent were
eligible for funding for access devices
– 60 per cent of elementary schools reported that visitors can only
access the school through one door
– 94 per cent of elementary students feel safe at school.

Liz Sandals, Parliamentary Assistant to Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Monte Kwinter, is leading the action team of safety experts who are implementing the Safe School Action plan.
“We know that schools that are safe from violence help students to focus on learning so they can reach their potential,” said Sandals.
“Our government is working collaboratively with school staff to ensure that Ontario’s publicly funded schools are truly great places to learn, grow and achieve,”

Next steps in the plan include:
– A complete review of the Safe Schools Act
– A bullying prevention program for every school
– A review of Justice Sydney Robins’ recommendations on the prevention
of sexual misconduct in Ontario schools.

“Safe schools are a prerequisite for student achievement,” said Kennedy. “Every student has the right to feel safe and be safe in school and on
school grounds.”

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