As we close out the school year and begin planning for the next, it is important to review and update key policies and plans. The information below offers guidance and resources for schools as they examine employee and student handbooks, crisis plans, and school safety concerns.

New Leaders suggests three ways to get a running start on next school year.

“The end of the school year is busy, to be sure, but it’s also a great opportunity to set aside some time for you and your team to officially close out the year together and do some advanced preparation for the school year ahead.”

  1. Schedule time for reflection. Encourage honest and psychologically safe discussions reflecting on how the year went. In its simplest form, psychological safety is the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake or speak up with ideas, questions, or concerns
  2. Gather data to see your next steps. Solicit feedback from all sectors of your school community in addition to assessment, enrollment, and discipline data.
  3. Consider a new planning approach. Investigate a variety of options like short-cycle planning, instructional leadership teams, and distributed leadership opportunities for emerging leaders.

Review and Update Employee and Student Handbooks

Advice from NAIS encourages schools to identify one person to be responsible for the handbook. This person can loop in subject matter experts, such as the athletic director or school nurse, as necessary. The school’s legal counsel should review the handbook early in the process to ensure compliance with new federal and state laws and best practices. Heads of school should be a part of this process and conduct the final review. Trustees, however, should not be involved in the handbook development or review process.

Emerging Employee and Student Handbook Updates for the 2024-2025 School Year Venable

An Employee Handbook Refresher Course for Independent Schools McLane Middleton (webinar recording)

Employee Handbook Samples NBOA (membership required for access)

Four Items You Must Include in Your Employee Handbook ISM

  1. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statement
  2. ADA/Disability Accommodations
  3. Harassment Policy
  4. Employee Classifications

Independent School Guide to Employee Handbooks NAIS (membership required for access)

Key Handbook Updates for the 2023-2024 School Year Venable

Key Topics for Updating Student and Employee Handbooks McLane Middleton

Student Handbooks – Essential Updates for the New School Year McLane Middleton (webinar recording)

Time for Spring Cleaning! Key Handbook Updates for the 2022-2023 School Year Venable

Top Eight Employee Handbook Mistakes ISM

  1. Going at it alone
  2. Making promises your school will never keep
  3. Speaking “legalese” instead of “culture” 
  4. Including too many policies and too much detail
  5. Being inconsistent
  6. Mentioning employee probation periods
  7. Not adapting your state laws
  8. Overstating at-will disclaimers

Safety and Crisis Planning

Cyber Safety Considerations for K-12 Schools and School Districts U.S. Department of Education (Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools)
This guide addresses online threats to students. This office also offers guidance on guidance for threats to school infrastructure and networks and a cybersecurity tabletop exercise which could be helpful summer exercise for the admin, crisis, and tech teams.

Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans U.S. Department of Education (Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools)
This guide provides a six-step planning process.

  1. Form a collaborative planning team.
  2. Understand the situation.
  3. Determine goals and objectives.
  4. Plan development, identifying courses of action.
  5. Plan preparation, review, and approval.
  6. Plan implementation and maintenance.

Five Questions to Ask Yourself about Your Safety Program Joffe Emergency Services

  1. Do you have an Incident Command System (ICS) plan? This involves organizing people and teams in distinct roles in an emergency.
  2. Do you have enough redundancy in your Incident Command System (ICS) plan? A plan only works if the people assigned to implement it are on campus during an emergency.
  3. Have you made updates to your emergency plan? Schools should be updating their emergency plans annually to reflect changes to personnel, physical spaces on campus, and new practices and protocols that have been adopted.
  4. Do you have a security strategy for next year? Think about needs, budget, and community feedback.
  5. Do you have a business continuity plan in place? How will you sustain and maintain the work of school during an extended situation?

Four School Safety Priorities for the Spring and Early Summer Joffe Emergency Services

  1. Check safety plans for off campus activities.
  2. Consider graduation security plans.
  3. Build your summer “fix it” list.
  4. Reframe summer school safety training.

Improving School Safety Through Bystander Reporting US Department of Homeland Security
“Effective reporting systems, and the willingness of bystanders to come forward with safety and wellness concerns for themselves and others, are critical components of student health and school violence prevention efforts.”

  1. Encourage bystanders to report concerns for the wellness and safety of themselves and others.
  2. Make reporting accessible and safe for the reporting community.
  3. Follow-up on reports and be transparent about the actions taken in response to reported concerns.
  4. Make reporting a part of daily school life.
  5. Create a positive school climate where reporting is valued and respected.

Planning an Upcoming Leadership Transition? Make Sure Safety Is a Priority in the Handoff! Joffe Emergency Services

  • Assign a new incident commander.
  • Trade the “book of secrets” on safety.
  • Build a drill schedule and training plan for the fall.
  • Help the incoming leader keep safety on their radar.

Preparing for a Cyber Incident U.S. Secret Service
Resources to help you monitor, prepare, and develop policies.

Private Schools: Emergency Management Planning for All Settings U.S. Department of Education (Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools)
Specific challenges and considerations for private schools, training opportunities, and guidance for building private-public partnerships.

Increasing Safety Concern – Opioid Use and Overdose

Guidelines for the Administration of an Opioid Antagonist for Students Suspected of a Drug Overdose State of TN (example)

Naloxone in the School Setting National Association of School Nurses

Preparing for Opioid-Related Emergencies for K-12 Schools and Institutions of Higher Education Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS)

Why the Rainbow Fentanyl Trend Might Lead You to Stock Naloxone (Narcan) in Your School Fisher Phillips

Identifying Potential Risks

Potential Risks to Independent Schools EAB Independent School Executive Forum
“This list is not exhaustive, nor is it a substitute for implementing a comprehensive risk management process to identify risks to your institution. Instead, this resource is meant to help you vet your own list once it has been created through the risk management process.”

Risk Management Considerations for Summer Camps Venable
Hiring, training, and registration