A Message from Dr. LaTanya D. McDade

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Provided by Prince William County Schools

Dear PWCS Families, Employees, and Community, 

My heart is heavy as I reflect on the devastating violence impacting the University of Virginia community earlier this week. My thoughts are with the students, their families, and the entire UVA community as they struggle to heal. The frequency of these senseless tragedies weighs on my mind as I think about the many lives that have been changed forever. I also consider our own Prince William County community and the safety of the students and staff in our schools. 

Earlier this week, Prince William County Police Chief Peter Newsham joined our Risk Management Department to share an update on school safety with our School Board. During the presentation, Chief Newsham shared the importance of our School Resource Officers (SROs) and effective violence training and response. He also shared that the police and school administrators have investigated 46 school related threats this school year. Additionally, and even more disconcerting, 12 weapons including five guns, have been recovered in our schools this school year. One weapon is one too many. 

In collaboration with Prince William County Police, PWCS is committed to making schools and facilities welcoming and conducive to learning and we will not be satisfied until every student and employee reports feeling safe in school. Last spring, we hired an external consultant, specializing in safety and security, who completed an audit of several of our schools. Upon review, we are exploring recommendations from the audit to bolster the safety and security of our school buildings. 

For this school year alone, PWCS has committed an additional 104 full-time safety and security positions, including security assistants at the elementary schools. The extra security assistants provide school support ensuring compliance with key security protocols including regular perimeter checks, monitoring entry, and other safety measures. Our middle and high schools are supported by SROs, in addition to security assistants, specialists, and officers. The Prince William County Police Department is committed to providing additional SROs once they are able to meet staffing challenges. Through effective training programs, we are also improving crisis management readiness. 

Our school division understands how critical it is to explore and consider potential options, advancements, and innovations in school safety and security for our students and staff well-being. We are in the process of looking at practices locally and nationally that may further the safety and wellbeing of staff, including the use of advanced touchless concealed weapon security screening technology, like that used at theme parks and professional sporting events. As we look at exploring such measures, we will be certain to include family engagement and employee voice in any decision making.  

One of the best preventative actions is checking in with our children, building meaningful relationships with our students, and using anonymous reporting systems, like Say Something, when we suspect a student is in crisis. Community engagement can prevent community tragedy. I appreciate your support as we work together to ensure a safe and secure school climate. 

Also, earlier this week, the School Board voted on the 2023-24 school calendar. Option 3 was selected in alignment with the community and staff survey results. As a reminder, Option 3 scheduled a shorter winter break in favor of an earlier June release. The 2023-24 school calendar’s first day of school for students will be August 21, 2023. Staff will have two planning days at the end of the school calendar. I invite you to review the calendar as you make family plans around your child’s education. 

I hope you and your family have a restful weekend. 

Sincerely,   

Dr. McDade Signature

LaTanya D. McDade, Ed.D.   Superintendent   Prince William County Public Schools

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