Clear backpacks now required at New Hanover High, district working on crisis communications

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Following the shooting at New Hanover High School last week, the school is making a policy change and the district is working to improve its own practices.

New Hanover High Principal Philip Sutton announced on Monday that students would be required to carry clear or see-through backpacks at school beginning October 11. In a social media post, the school said they would help students who needed assistance in getting a new backpack.

This new guideline is only taking effect at NHHS as of right now. New Hanover County Schools Chief Communications Officer Josh Smith said he’s not aware of any other changes at NHHS or other schools across the district at this time.

On a district level, Smith said the communications team is working to analyze and improve their crisis communications.

“What we are doing right now a week after the fact is essentially an audit on better practices, identifying what went right and what worked, identifying areas to improve,” Smith said.

Smith said a new communications program called School Messenger was launched this summer and they’re still working out the kinks.

“It’s been absolute all hands on deck for my team to look at exactly what did go well and what didn’t go well. I think we had somewhere between 87 to 89-percent efficacy rating for hitting those specific families that we wanted to hit, but out of those 3,000 people that we were targeting with that messaging 87 to 89-percent is not an acceptable number,” Smith said. “Now we go back and we iterate and we fix those problems. That’s what we’ve been working on.”

The program sends alerts through phone calls and emails district-wide or even as specific to one classroom or sports team. Parents began getting text messages this week asking them to opt-in for text alerts from the program. Smith said the timing of the alert is nearly coincidental.

Parents can customize their communication preferences and update their contact information using PowerSchool.

New Hanover County Schools held their latest meeting reviewing the situation and discussing safety protocols on Friday. Smith said the discussions will continue. They are currently in “receiving mode” and are very open to feedback and suggestions.

Smith said he anticipates he will begin providing progress updates at regularly scheduled board meetings beginning in October or November.

Categories: Local, New Hanover, Top Stories

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