To: Superintendents and Independent School Heads
From: Heather Bouchey, Interim Secretary, Vermont Agency of Education; Michael Desrochers, Director, Division of Fire Safety; Vermont School Safety Center
Subject: Updated Guidance Regarding Egress Evacuation and Options Based Response Drills for the 2023-2024 Academic Year
Date: October 10, 2023
Following the release of the September 5, 2023 memo titled, “Guidance Regarding Egress Evacuation and Options Based Response Drills for the 2023-2024 Academic Year”, the Agency of Education received feedback from several of our key stakeholders indicating a need for additional clarity on the requirements for Emergency Egress (“fire” drills) versus Options-Based Response to Violent Intruder Drills.
As a result, the Agency, in partnership with the Vermont School Safety Center (VSSC), identified several key components of the September 5, 2023 guidance to clarify and emphasize in a revised memo for the 2023-2024 School Year:
- The Drill Guidance Memo provides direction to school districts and Independent Schools on two distinct sets of regulation: Options-Based Response to Violent Intruder Drills as provided by Act 29 (new) and Emergency Egress (“Fire”) Drills as provided by the National Fire Prevention Association (pre-existing)
- Act 29 requires that each school board and Independent School adopt a policy ensuring that each school site conducts Options-Based Response to Violent Intruder Drills, which:
- Are completed in both the fall and spring semesters each year; The VSSC strongly recommends that all schools and districts complete Options-Based Response to Violent Intruder Drills at the start of each semester (September and January);
- Are Options-Based, trauma-informed, and age-appropriate;
- Are conducted following the guidance issued by the Vermont School Safety Center jointly with the Vermont School Crisis Planning Team, and;
- Require notification to parents and guardians not later than one school day before an options-based response drill is conducted.
For the 2023-2024 School Year, the Agency of Education developed assurances which allow for respondents to certify their anticipated compliance with Act 29 requirements for the 2023-2024 School Year. Ultimately, all SU/SDs and independent schools will be required to fully satisfy all requirements of Act 29, including development and implementation of key policies, staff training, and reporting of data to the AOE.
In acknowledgment of the challenging deadlines, and the need for additional technical assistance from the AOE and VSSC, these assurances are meant to allow assurance of current compliance (if applicable) as well as intention of compliance for the 2023-2024 school year for activities that cannot yet be completed. As such, districts and Independent Schools may allow for additional time to update or implement existing drill policies and procedures while remaining in compliance for the 2023-2024 school year.
For questions regarding this memo or the requirements of Act 29, please contact Jill Briggs Campbell, Agency of Education at email@example.com.
For technical questions on drill recommendations by the Vermont School Safety Center, please contact Vermont’s School Safety Liaison Officer Rob Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org or (802) 839-0448 or School Safety Programs Manager, Sunni Eriksen at email@example.com or (802) 760-7117, or visit the Vermont School Safety Center’s website.