Keeping Chelsea Safe


In recent years, tragic shootings, particularly school shootings, have become more and more frequent. To reduce the likelihood of an incident, Chelsea has many programs in place to keep the district as safe as possible.

Although any school in the district could be a potential target, Chelsea High School in particular must be paid special attention when it comes to school safety.

“The high school gets more usage during non-traditional school times, like for a weekend basketball tournament or a community concert,” CHS Principal Nick Angel said. “That presents unique safety challenges, especially when there are non-members of our community using the building.”

As such, there are numerous safety programs at the high school. Some examples include OK2SAY, a program that allows students to anonymously report tips about school threats, and SRSLY, a program that fights to prevent substance use. 

The district also integrates programs like ALICE, a program that trains students and staff to respond to an intruder in the building, and has sophisticated camera and communication systems.

“We have live feeds of all our cameras and audio directly to the Chelsea Police Department,” Angel said. “We also have strong relationships with our first responders, and my administrative team and I meet monthly with the Chelsea Chief of Police to discuss school safety.”

Chelsea is also piloting new gun detection software linked to the school’s cameras that can detect if there is a gun on school grounds 24/7 and can alert first responders in real-time. Buzz-in doors to the high school and Securely, an online safety presence that monitors all school technology for threats, are also parts of Chelsea’s safety network.

Communication and quick responses to situations are another large part of safety.

“We recently had a medical issue with one of our staff members recently that was very scary,” Angel said. “Our first responders were here in a handful of minutes thanks to communication through our walkie talkie system.”

All of these programs certainly help to make the school safer, but they aren’t the biggest part of school safety: the community of kids and adults throughout the school is the most important factor.

“The students are the strength of our school safety plan,” Angel said. “When they hear or see anything, they can talk to trusted adults. It’s important for kids to know that school safety is very serious and you can’t joke about these things.”

This tightly-knit community in Chelsea has kept the district safe for a long time and continues to do so.

 “There is a true partnership of support when it comes to providing a safe environment for our students and staff and that begins with trust and communication between these stakeholder groups,” Chelsea Superintendent Mike Kapolka said. “Communicating effectively with one another regarding potential or alleged threats remains a very proactive and positive safety measure for our district.”

Chelsea’s staff is strong; the district has a school success coordinator for students struggling with substances, a mental health coordinator, a social worker in each building, and a school psychologist. Additionally, there are three counselors at the high school and a full administrative team, so there are many trusted adults whom students should feel comfortable contacting.

“We have quite a few safety programs, but in reality, the tried and true method of having trusted adults work with kids is best,” Angel said. “When we’ve had an issue or a rumor, students have always had a trusted adult that they can confide in, who can kick it up the chain to ensure that safety concerns are addressed.”

Even with all these plans in place, there is still a need to continually take measures to make the district a safe one.

“You have to be getting better every single day with school safety or you have an issue,” Angel said. “We need to continually revisit our drill practices, invest in our relationships with first responders, and update school safety plans and software.”

Finding places to make revisions is also difficult in itself. 

“One major challenge with school safety resides in fully understanding where our gaps or areas of improvement might be,” Kapolka said. “This is one of the reasons why the district contracted with a consulting group to conduct a full safety analysis of our district’s security protocol and measures.” 

The necessity of revisions is a result of the modern world and the uses of social media. Threats of school violence are a lot more common, thus demanding a higher level of safety.

“When I started as a school administrator sixteen years ago, the world looked different; you didn’t think twice about leaving school doors open,” Angel said. “We don’t do those kinds of things anymore.”

Students have just as large a role as anyone else to play in keeping Chelsea safe.

“Students can avoid propping open exterior doors, and if they see one that is wedged open, they can close it,” Kapolka said. “They can also openly communicate with parents, teachers and administrators if they see anything that may be potentially considered a threat against the school.”

Even though everyone should be wary of the constant threat of an incident, they should also be confident in the programs Chelsea has put into place and the strong bonds between community members here that make Chelsea a very safe place to be.

“I’m really proud that we have amazing kids here, I’m proud we have amazing staff here, and I’m proud that when situations come up, students are able to get the support and help they need,” Angel said. “Those relationships and the community are the most important thing.”