State recognizes RCS, Avondale schools for cardiac preparedness

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published February 8, 2023


ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — Various schools in the Rochester Community Schools district have once again been awarded the MI HeartSafe School designation, signaling its schools are prepared to respond to cardiac emergencies.

Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ chief medical executive, said sudden cardiac death claims the lives of more than 300 Michigan children and young adults every year.

“Having schools prepared for cardiac emergencies can help decrease the number of these tragedies and prepare school employees to have the training necessary to respond in a timely manner and avert what could be a life-threatening situation,” she said in a statement.

This year, 193 schools in Michigan were named as MI HeartSafe Schools — a three-year designation that shows these school communities know how to recognize the signs of a sudden cardiac arrest and respond quickly by calling 911 and using CPR and an automated external defibrillator until EMS arrives.

In the Rochester Community Schools district, the MI HeartSafe School designations of seven buildings were renewed for 2021-2024: Baldwin, Hugger, Brooklands, Hampton and Long Meadow elementary schools; and Rochester and Stoney Creek high schools.

Other schools in the district received their MI HeartSafe School designation for 2019-2022 and aren’t due to apply for their renewal until May 15.

RCS Superintendent Robert Shaner said the district prioritizes the safety and well-being of its students, staff and visitors, including ensuring the district’s critical incident teams are prepared to provide care in the event of a cardiac emergency, and that proper equipment is available, maintained and ready for use.

“We remain steadfast in our efforts to ensure schools meet the stringent MI HeartSafe School criteria as an extra measure of safety. We are grateful for our partners at Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital who assisted us in our efforts this past year by providing free CPR and AED training for approximately 160 RCS staff members. As a result of this commitment, all schools maintain the MI HeartSafe School designation districtwide,” Shaner said in a statement.

In the Avondale School district, the MI HeartSafe School designation of Avondale High School was renewed for 2021-2024.

“We feel it’s critical to be mindful of the safety of our student athletes when it comes to cardiac arrest,” said Avondale Schools Superintendent James Schwartz. “We’ve seen a lot of situations with cardiac arrest happening in our young people — most recently the Buffalo Bills football player that it happened to a few weeks ago. Even in professional sports, cardiac arrest is a big deal, so the more we can do to have staff trained to help the prevention of that, all the better.”

Michigan Public Act 12 of 2014 requires all schools — kindergarten through 12th grade — to implement a cardiac emergency response plan. Prior to PA12, there was no way of tracking whether Michigan schools had a cardiac plan in place.

Also in 2014, the Michigan Alliance for the Prevention of Sudden Cardiac Death of the Young, the American Heart Association and the Michigan departments of Health and Human Services and Education created the MI HeartSafe Schools program to recognize schools that go beyond PA12 by developing an extensive cardiac emergency plan that meets the MI HeartSafe School guidelines.

In order to receive a MI HeartSafe School rating, a school must perform annual cardiac emergency response drills; have a written medical emergency response plan and a medical emergency response team; have a current CPR/automated external defibrillator certification for at least 10% of the staff and 50% of coaches, including 100% of head varsity coaches and 100% of physical education staff; have accessible, properly maintained and inspected AEDs with signs identifying their locations; and ensure all student athletes are screened using the current physical and history form endorsed by the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

State Superintendent Michael Rice said he is proud to recognize and support Michigan’s HeartSafe schools.

“Ensuring schools are prepared for sudden cardiac emergencies through planning, training and life-saving AEDs is an important part of having safer learning environments for students, staff and the community,” Rice said in a statement.

This is the MI HeartSafe Schools program’s ninth year. A HeartSafe designation lasts for three years, and 50 schools received their third MI HeartSafe award this year.

For more information about the MI HeartSafe Schools program, visit or email