A core belief of Bixby School is that “children learn best in a safe environment: physically, emotionally, and intellectually.” At the same time, a central goal of our educational philosophy is to foster independence, critical thinking, and problem-solving, all of which require that children have developmentally appropriate opportunities to experience genuine risk. Balancing these two goals guides our approach to risk management and prompts us to reflect regularly:
- Is there a risk of permanent or serious injury?
- Is this a risk that families are aware of and have given explicit or implicit consent for their child to participate in?
- Is the risk developmentally appropriate for this child or these children?
- Is this a meaningful opportunity for learning independence, problem-solving, or developing self-concept and self-confidence?
Above all else, it is our responsibility to keep students safe from known and avoidable harm. Learning through independence should never seriously endanger a child. This general philosophy Bixby applies to all of our risk management efforts.
Intellectual and emotional safety are the foundation for fostering a safe school environment. These are addressed through our school design, instructional philosophy, staffing model and curriculum. Key elements of this include:
- Intentionally small school design and low teacher: student ratios make it possible for every child to be seen and known
- Co-teaching in Preschool and our content specialist model in Elementary ensures that multiple adults can develop primary relationships with each student over multiple years
- Explicit instruction in developmentally appropriate body safety, as well as social-emotional curriculum, support students’ ability to identify and take action when they or others feel unsafe
- Full-time school counselor is available to identify and respond to potential concerns for students emotional well-being
- Commitment to examine, explore, question, and share understandings of diversity, equity, and inclusion are rooted in the belief that each member of our community deserves to feel love and belonging.
- Anti-bullying practices: Bixby School takes steps to prevent bullying and intervenes if and when it occurs. Our approach is based on available best practices, including partnering with families to increase their awareness of the warning signs that students are being targeted or perpetrating bullying, training faculty on how to identify and respond to “gateway behaviors,” as well as basic bullying prevention and intervention strategies.
- An evidence-based media literacy curriculum is delivered to students in 4th and 5th grade using The Social Institute’s “gamified, online learning platform that empowers students to navigate their social world positively — including social media and technology — to fuel their health, happiness, and future success.”
All Bixby employees are trained in health and safety protocols and procedures annually before the start of the school year. These trainings include CPR/First Aid/AED, Emergency Medication Administration (e.g., Epi-Pen, inhaler, etc.), Standard Precautions, and Food Handler Safety.
Bixby School maintains an “allergy aware” campus and strives to keep students with life-threatening food allergies safe. All faculty and staff are informed of children on site with life-threatening food allergies and the exact location of their emergency medications.
We work closely with our Nurse Consultant to ensure faculty and staff are properly trained to administer medications and respond to medical emergencies.
Annual Inspections and Licensing: The school’s preschool, summer, and extended care programs are licensed and inspected annually by the Department of Early Childhood and the Department of Public Health and Environment. The Boulder Fire Department annually inspects the premises’ fire extinguishers and sprinkler/alarm systems.
Food Service: The school’s food service program is licensed and inspected annually by the Department of Public Health and Environment. Bixby School’s food service program complies with the Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations.
Volunteers and Visitors
All visitors to Bixby School must sign in at our front desk and receive a visitor’s badge. New guests or unfamiliar persons must show valid legal identification as a part of our check-in process. A legal guardian must give permission for someone else to pick up a child from school and must show identification before a child is released.
In addition, we require background checks for regular parent volunteers or any volunteer who has access to students.
Bixby School has engaged a nationally recognized expert in school safety to periodically conduct a comprehensive assessment of the school’s physical security and operational practices and policies. Recommendations from these assessments for improving the safety of the school’s physical safety procedures have been systematically implemented over time, including significant investments in building access control.
Building Access: Bixby School is a closed campus, with access to the school grounds controlled through electronic access and monitors. This allows the school to restrict access to unauthorized individuals and quickly secure the building in case of an emergency. In addition, several cameras are strategically located throughout the property, allowing authorized personnel to quickly identify and respond to any uninvited guests.
Perimeter Fence: Bixby’s campus is almost three acres. The diverse and well-landscaped grounds offer an ideal setting for children’s play and learning in nature. Facilitating children’s access to the school property throughout the day is a defining feature of our school philosophy. In 2023, Bixby School replaced a chain-link fence that surrounded the western perimeter of the property (including sports field and North field) with a 7’ forged steel fence. The fence has crash bars to allow for quick egress in the event of an emergency, and electronic access pads restrict entry into the property.
Swim program: Bixby School has several design elements to mitigate the inherent risks of operating a swimming pool. The initial focus for all students is on safety, with small teacher-to-student ratios and a second adult “on deck” for younger students. The swim instructor must have a valid Lifeguard and Water Safety Instructor certification and Certified Pool Operator credentials.
Transportation: Most off-campus transportation is provided by two 14-passenger vans acquired through a generous gift from a school family. All drivers must successfully complete an online defensive driving course through the National Safety Council road test and agree to internal policies and procedures as outlined by the Colorado Department of Human Services as well as provide evidence of a “clean” driving record.
Bixby School has adopted best practices in child protection through its school policies, hiring procedures, training, supervision, and reporting. (NAIS Prevention and Response 2018)
- Policies: Bixby School policies provide clear expectations for how Bixby School employees create, foster, and maintain positive and healthy relationships with students, colleagues, and other stakeholders. The school’s policies and procedures include guidelines for responding to unkind acts between children, including bullying. These policies are reviewed and updated at least annually, with related improvements made to support consistent implementation.
- Hiring Procedures: The hiring process includes background checks through CBI, FBI, and Trails, plus at least two professional reference checks before a new employee starts. Existing employees are submitted to a background check every five years.
- Training: All faculty and staff participate in annual training in Threat Assessment and Child Sexual Abuse Prevention for School Staff delivered by the Colorado School Safety Resource Center during pre-service weeks and throughout the school year. Required training includes: mandated reporter training, review of school policies regarding touching and restraining students, and reporting and responding to concerns about potential abuse. All preschool staff must also be certified in Medical Administration and complete training related to Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome and Abusive Head Trauma.
- Supervision: Bixby School’s physical design allows students to be observed in all classroom spaces. Bathrooms and changing areas are readily accessible by adults and able to be monitored while maintaining privacy.
- Reporting: In addition to school policies, every employee of Bixby School is a “mandated reporter,” which means they are legally obligated to report any inappropriate or concerning behaviors or incidents. Our school counselor and administration respond quickly to investigate and take prompt action when indicated.
Background Checks: All employees and any volunteers who may be unsupervised when with children must complete a thorough background check. Bixby’s practices in this area comply with the rigorous and specific licensing requirements from CDHS, which include checking databases for DMV, CBI, FBI, and TRAILS. Bixby also repeats background checks for current employees every five years.
Safety Team: Bixby School has a Safety Team that leads our efforts to prevent, prepare and respond to safety concerns and crises at the school. The Safety Team is composed of administrators and faculty with collective responsibility for all areas of the school operations, as well as an external safety consultant with extensive experience in school safety. The Safety Team maintains and monitors school-wide incident reports to identify trends and opportunities for improving safety and security practices at the school.
Crisis Response: Bixby School has adopted the Standard Response Protocol and conducts monthly fire and emergency drills for staff and students. Bixby School partners closely with Boulder Police Department and Emergency Services to ensure they are familiar with our school and prepared to support us in the unlikely event of an emergency.
Notifying Families: Bixby’s student information system is used to deliver texts and emails to communicate with staff and families in the case of emergencies, snow days, etc.