The Multigrade Classroom


“Emergencies bring out the true metal of character.”
—E. G. White, Review and Herald, September 17, 1895


Emergency Preparedness Plan

The sole purpose of an emergency drill is to teach the procedures to be followed in case of an actual emergency. Therefore, it is important to treat every drill as if it were a real event.

Be aware of the types of disasters most likely to occur in your area so that you can be prepared in case of an emergency. Your school should have an emergency alert system in place to warn you if there is an impending emergency during school hours (i.e, town sirens, emergency alert radio, automatic phone calls from the police department).

Each school needs to have an Emergency Preparedness Plan that outlines, in detail, a plan of action for each potential emergency your school may face.  You may find if helpful to review an Emergency Procedures Manual as you develop your own Emergency Preparedness Plan.  The board should approve the school’s Emergency Preparedness Plan. All teachers and support staff need to know the contents of the school’s plan and should teach the emergency procedures to the students.

Remember to do the following:

  • Consult with local authorities.  Meet with them and give them a tour of your school.  Learn from them about required regulations for your area.  Value their suggestions for handling emergencies.
  • Clarify how parents will be informed when an emergency occurs.
  • Post an emergency exit plan in each room.
  • Conduct and record emergency drills according to state or governmental requirements (i.e. fire, tornado, hurricane, earthquake, intruder threat).
  • Keep a school roster and a cell phone nearby and easily accessible.
  • Retain students under teacher supervision during an actual emergency until released into the care of the parent(s)/guardian.
  • Teach students what to do if the teacher is involved in an emergency. Have a board-approved list of responsible adults who can be contacted to supervise students.



Planning and conducting fire drills is important.  Identify and post two escape routes (primary and secondary) for each room in the school. Students should form a line for exiting the school in an orderly, quiet fashion to facilitate movement to a designated safe area. Call 911 from a cell phone or a neighbor’s phone once everyone has been evacuated.



The peak tornado season varies from region to region. However, tornadoes occur most frequently during the spring and fall. Be aware of the difference between a watch and warning. A tornado watch indicates that conditions are favorable for a tornado. A tornado warning indicates that a tornado has actually been spotted or indicated on radar.  Take cover immediately!

Students should exit the classroom in an orderly manner to a designated safe place (interior room on the lowest floor; away from glass).  Crouch down and make as small a “target” as possible. Cover your head with an appropriate object (i.e., book, hands).



Things to consider when a hurricane threatens:

  • Know if the school is in an evacuation area.
  • Assess the school’s vulnerability to storm surge, flooding, and wind.
  • Check for supplies.

Be aware of the differences between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning. A hurricane watch indicates the possibility that hurricane conditions could be experienced within 36 hours.  A hurricane warning indicates that sustained winds of at least 74 mph are expected within 24 hours. Determine the safest location to be during the storm. Heed local authorities, including evacuation if so directed.



Earthquakes happen with no advanced warning. Therefore, action must be taken at the first indication.

Regular earthquake drills should occur apart from, but as frequently as, fire drills. The following procedures are recommended:

  • Take cover under desks or tables.
  • Students should be on knees with head down and hands clasped on the back of neck.
  • Face away from windows.
  • Count to 60 so all in the room can hear you. Earthquakes are seldom longer than 60 seconds and counting calms the students.
  • Instruct students to evacuate the building when the shaking stops.  Remind students to quietly move to the designated area away from the building so that instructions can be heard.


Intruder Threat

Contact and work closely with your local safety officer in advance of an emergency.  Part of your school’s Emergency Preparedness Plan should address what to do when there is an intruder.

The school board should review school security related to access control, perimeter visibility, and communication abilities (i.e., cell phones, buzzers).

Conduct Lockdown drills (i.e. Internal Intruder, External Intruder).  Communicate openly and honestly with students. Discuss and prepare for a possible intruder in a balanced and reasonable way that is age and developmentally appropriate for students. Make sure the discussion is in context and does not unduly scare students.

If there is an intruder in the building you will need to make a professional decision on what the best course of action is.  It would be valuable to consider the following:

  • Remain calm
  • Call 911
  • Account for all students
  • Keep students and staff away from the intruder’s location
  • Make a professional decision to remain in a hide/defend mode, or have students flee the building


First Aid

You should be prepared when there is an accident or emergency on the school premises.

You should have access to a basic, up-to-date first aid kit that includes supplies such as:

  • Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Cleansing agent/soap
  • Ice packs
  • Non-prescription drugs (i.e., aspirin, non-aspirin pain reliever)
  • Scissors
  • Sterile dressings
  • Sterile gloves
  • Thermometer
  • Tweezers

Also be aware of state/provincial requirements.

  • In many areas teachers are required to hold a current certification in first aid training, and CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation).
  • In some communities teachers are to provide only basic first aid such as washing and dressing a wound, but may not administer any disinfectant stronger than soap.

Check with your Conference superintendent for what is required in your state/province.


Bloodborne Pathogens

Bloodborne pathogens are infectious materials in blood that can cause disease in humans. Individuals exposed to bloodborne pathogens risk serious illness or death. Each school is to have an Exposure Control Plan for bloodborne pathogens. This plan provides direction for dealing with any situation in which blood is present.  Be sure to follow the plan every time there is an exposure.

One part of the plan will include having a bloodborne pathogen kit at the school. This kit is to be used when disposing of body fluids. The kit should include:

  • Absorbent material to spread over body fluid
  • Disposable apron, gloves, and shoe covers
  • Protective mask and goggles
  • Scooper
  • Biohazard bags
  • Approved disinfectants for sanitizing the area


Dispensing Medications

Medications should not be administered without proper authorization. It is important to check state/provincial governmental regulations and Local Conference Office of Education guidelines or policies regarding the administration of medications. Many areas do not allow teachers (or anyone other than a school nurse) to dispense over-the-counter medications.

The board should approve a procedure for the dispensing of prescription medications that includes guidelines such as:

  • Medication should be in the original pharmacy container.
  • Doctor-provided written instructions should be provided (i.e., method for dispensing, amount to be given, time the medication should be administered).
  • All medications should be kept in a secure location.
  • Records of when medication has been dispensed should be kept.
  • A Medication Authorization and Administration Form should be kept in the student’s health record.


Student Illness

Prior to the beginning of the school year, establish a plan for caring for a student who is ill. The following guidelines may be used:

  • Contact the student’s parent(s) and/or guardians or the “designated” individual to be notified if the parent/guardian is unavailable.
  • Provide a quiet area with mat or bed, pillow and blanket where the ill student can rest comfortably until someone arrives to take him/her home. This could be a quiet corner of the classroom or the teacher’s office if it is adjacent to the classroom.



Influenza-related illnesses can result in widespread illness for your entire school. Check the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) or listen to media outlets for notifications of pandemic situations.

If you have widespread illness at your school contact your Local Conference superintendent for information on when it would be appropriate to close your school down for one or more days.


Student Accident Insurance

Schools are required to carry student accident insurance. This insurance is usually provided through the Local Conference Office of Education. Conference personnel can also provide informational brochures, prepared by the insurance company, that you can distribute to parents.


Emergency Information

The following information should be accurate and up-to-date:

  • Parent(s)/Guardian contact information
  • Designated person to contact in the event the parent(s)/ guardian cannot be reached
  • Physician name and contact information
  • Consent to Treatment form
  • In Canada: A Student Health Insurance Number which must be presented for any medical service


Minor Accident

When a student has a minor accident that involves superficial cuts or abrasions, first aid should be administered at the school. The use of disinfectants, ointments, or medications is not recommended and may be prohibited by state/provincial governmental regulations. Use the following procedure:

  • Use sterile gloves when cleaning an open wound.
  • Cleanse the wound with soap and water.
  • Cover the area with a bandage.
  • Document the accident.
  • Notify the parent(s) guardian of the incident.


Major Accident

Extreme caution should be exercised in the initial handling of a student who has sustained an injury. Each injury should be considered serious until it is determined that it is only a superficial abrasion, cut, or bruise.

If it is suspected that a student has sustained a serious injury of any type, implement the following procedure:

  • Do not move the injured student.
  • Follow first-aid procedures, as directed by a professional.
  • Notify the parent(s)/guardian at once. If the parent(s)/guardian cannot be reached, notify the “designated” individual and doctor.
  • Ask the other students to pray.
  • Contact a responsible person to stay with the remaining students if you must accompany the injured student. Do not leave students unsupervised.
  • Send the Consent to Treatment form and in Canada, the Health Insurance Number, with the injured student.
  • Document the incident.


Reporting Accidents

Immediately after the incident is over and the student has received any required first aid or medical attention, complete a written report of the accident. Contact the Local Conference Office of Education to see if there is a required or recommended Incident Report form available.

The documentation should include:

  • Name, address, and age of student
  • Date and time of the accident
  • Circumstances under which the student was injured
  • Nature of suspected symptoms and injuries
  • Name of supervisor at the time of the accident
  • Distance of supervisor from the accident scene
  • Documentation of first-aid treatment administered

Follow Local Conference Office of Education guidelines. Generally, the and Incident Report form is to be completed with a copy placed in the student’s health folder and a copy sent to the Local Conference Office of Education. The teacher may also want a copy for his/her anecdotal records.


Child Abuse and Neglect

Teachers are required by law to immediately report knowledge or suspicion of abuse or neglect. It is not the teacher’s responsibility to conduct an investigation to confirm suspicions. It is the teacher’s responsibility only to report knowledge or suspicion; the local or state/provincial governmental agency decides whether or not to investigate the report.


Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect

When you arrive at a new school, contact the local authorities and the Local Conference Office of Education to determine the procedure to use in your area for reporting abuse/neglect.

If you suspect abuse or neglect:

  • Contact the local or state/provincial Children Protective Services or law enforcement agency.
  • Notify the Local Conference Superintendent of Schools.
  • Document actions for personal anecdotal records.
  • DO NOT share your suspicions with other members of the church or community.


Signs of Abuse and Neglect

The following signs* may signal child abuse or neglect:

The child:

  • Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance.
  • Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents’ attention.
  • Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes.
  • Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen.
  • Lacks adult supervision.
  • Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn.
  • Comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home.

The parent:

  • Shows little concern for the child.
  • Denies the existence of—or blames the child for—the child’s problems in school or at home.
  • Asks teachers or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves.
  • Sees the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome.
  • Demands a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve.
  • Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs.

The parent and child:

  • Rarely touch or look at each other.
  • Consider their relationship entirely negative.
  • State that they do not like each other.

*Information from The Child Welfare Informa3tion Gateway Factsheet.  June 2007.


Emergency Closings

There will be times when you must close your school unexpectedly. The reasons for closing school vary but are most often related to one of the following: extreme weather, utility failure, building safety concerns, vandalism, and student illness (pandemic).

Teacher illness may also make closing school necessary since many small schools experience difficulty finding substitute teachers.

It is important that you are prepared for situations when conditions make it necessary for you to close school. Develop an action plan that will allow you to quickly communicate with each school family.

Possible options include:

  • Use One Call Now
  • Personal phone calls or text messages
  • A calling tree

Develop an action plan and make sure that each school family understands what procedures will be followed when school is canceled. Even when you are prepared ahead of time, don’t assume everyone has been contacted. A personal phone call or calling tree may be necessary to communicate quickly with your school families.



OSHA:  Occupational Safety and Health Administration (United States)

CCOHS: The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

Government of Canada Chemicals Management Plan: Official Canadian Government site with a section specific to asbestos.

These government agencies have the mission to prevent work-related injuries, illnesses, and occupational fatality by issuing and enforcing standards for workplace safety in the public and private sectors.

The requirements of OSHA or CCOHS can be challenging for a small school to administer. Your Local Conference will be able to provide guidance in maintaining compliance in the following areas:

  • Material Safety Data Sheets* (MSDS)
  • Mandatory OSHA postings
  • Asbestos management
  • Lead
  • Bloodborne pathogens
  • Ladder/scaffolding use

Failure to meet OSHA or CCOHS standards can result in significant fines and/or the closure of your school.

* Material Safety Data Sheet: a technical document which provides detailed and comprehensive information on a controlled product related to health effects of exposure to the product, hazard evaluation related to the product’s handling/storage/use, measure to protect workers at risk of exposure, and emergency procedures.


WHMIS (Canada)

The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is Canada’s hazard communication standard. The key elements of the system are cautionary labeling of containers of WHMIS “controlled products,” the provision of material safety data sheets (MSDS), and worker education and training programs. Contact your Local Conference Office of Education for guidelines in meeting WHMIS standards at your school.

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