NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Metro Nashville Public School (MNPS) students started a new year on Tuesday, Aug. 8.

Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle spoke with News 2 on the first day back in class after a summer full of preparations.

“This school year we are doubling down on things we know work for our students,” said Battle. “Everything from our academic and curriculum approaches to our SEL (our social-emotional learning) integration, as well as making sure we have safe and secure conditions.”

She said they have a robust data and tracking system in partnership with the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) to make sure they have the necessary support systems for students’ needs.

Battle said that includes advocacy centers in elementary schools and peace centers in middle and high schools, equipped with trained individuals. Plus, she said students are paired with a “navigator”, or a caring adult who checks in on students throughout the year.

Battle said it’s a collaborative approach to create the proper responses, and while they work to be transparent with families, they have to be careful about how much data is shared.

“With regard to safety and security, it’s a fine line because we want to be as transparent as possible; we want to really emphasize our continuum of care that everyone really does play a role in what that looks like, but we also want to be smart about what we release on our safety and security plans so we’re not equipping someone who might want to do harm with information that would allow them to do harm to our students and our staff,” said Battle.

MNPD’s budget ensures 75 officers are stationed at Metro’s middle and high schools daily. At elementary schools, there’s a different approach.

Battle said they’ve worked with MNPD to develop an age-appropriate SRO model where an officer is rotating through schools, working to create a friendly relationship with the young learners. On Tuesday morning at Tom Joy Elementary School, for example, an officer played music and handed out police badges to children.

Battle said this foundation will allow officers to transition into elementary schools once the police department has enough staff to expand the SRO program.

“We want to make sure that we’re being good stewards of our resources, the talent, and the expertise that our officers will be bringing, so just being mindful of that exciting, joyful, learning experience that we want for our students, but also facing the hard realities of where we are today,” said Battle.

MNPS also has safety ambassadors inside elementary school buildings, but the director said they are still in the process of filling positions. Battle said they’re continuing to recruit and retain safety ambassadors and will assign them to schools based on the need and the right fit.

“The right fit of our safety ambassadors, just like our teachers and our support staff and our principal leadership, matters to the community,” said Battle.