Safety, mental health, strong instruction are top priorities as students return to school | #schoolsaftey

With the start of the new school year now underway, local leaders and educators are looking to make this year a safe and exciting one.

State Sen. John Mannion joined Steve Dunham, the superintendent of schools at Westhill Central School District, at Cherry Road Elementary School Wednesday morning to greet students arriving for the first day of school.

Dunham said safety, student mental health and strengthening instruction in a post-COVID-19 classroom are all priorities for this academic year. He said following a swatting incident, where false reports of an active shooter were reported at Westhill High School last spring, the district has worked to increase safety and security measures.

“We learned a lot out of that,” Dunham said. “One of the things we have talked about, partnering with law enforcement, just making sure we have someone in each building, so that if there is something happening we have someone to engage with whatever that negative thing might be.”

Mannion, who worked on legislation to increase penalties for people who commit swatting calls following the Westhill High School incident, said schools should always be a safe space for students and faculty.

“Kids should not be in a situation where they have this stress, they should come to school and it should be a welcoming place, and it is, it is a welcoming place,” Mannion said.

Additionally, after disruptions from COVID-19 impacted and disrupted student experiences, Dunham said it’s time to get back to it. He said focusing on instruction will strengthen student engagement and preparedness.

“As we move a couple years from COVID, just getting back to really good, high-level, rigorous, relevant and meaningful instruction taking place in all of our classrooms, K through 12,” Dunham said. “Just trying to give our kids as many experiences as possible to keep them excited about learning and preparing them for whatever they want to do after they leave us.”

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