UPPER DARBY, Pa. - Upper Darby High School is making some changes after the school year got off to a rocky start.
"We’ve had more emergency situations in the first month of school here than we’ve had in a long time," says Superintendent Dr. Daniel McGarry.
Last week alone the high school evacuated after a student set a paper towel roll on fire. Dr. McGarry says a handful of students refused to evacuate and were disrespectful to some first responders.
The next day, the district says there was a fight between a group of girls that led to their parents fighting. A lockdown ensued when the brawl spilled into a hallway and knocked down a hand sanitizer station. A teacher thought the sound was a gunshot. The school moved to all-virtual learning on Friday so administrators could meet to discuss next steps.
Dr. McGarry believes navigating full-time, in-person learning for the first time in two years, during a pandemic, is a huge factor. The district is also facing a number of challenges: 400 new ESL students at the high school, plus major staffing and resource shortages.
"There’s a lot of pressure on students right now academically, socially and emotionally, social media obviously the way that we conduct ourselves often makes its way into schools," he says.
"Coming back, it’s just different it’s not the same anymore with these masks," says Marvens Filsaime, a senior.
Dr. McGarry sent a letter out to parents and UDHS Principal
Kelley Simone sent a video recording, along with an update on school discipline procedures over the weekend.
Central office staff are in the high school this week to help school administrators and there will be lesson plans on appropriate behavior and communication.
The district also plans to have the District Attorney’s Office make a presentation to students and parents about social media, along with the police superintendent and fire chief in light of the behavior of some students during last week’s evacuation. They are hiring school hall monitors for $20/hour.
"It’s tough so we’re going to draw a line in the sand and say we’re going to reengage, take back control and provide those supports and resources."