District 833, which is the school district in South Washington County, serves the area around Newtown, CT, where the tragic shooting of 26 children and adults took place in Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. One would expect that an increase in security in the surrounding district schools would take place, and it has. In six new schools, official greeters will be stationed at the entrance doors in order to monitor visitors.
The district’s communication director, Barb Brown, explained that the six schools that were selected did not have the previously implemented security protocols because they are newly built. Students and adults who come to these schools walk into an open lobby before approaching the offices and classrooms, which has been a concern. Now, the greeters, who will be there when the school schedule begins again on January 2nd, will help to determine whether each person who comes through the main doors is one who comes regularly to the school, or is a visitor.
However, this change is only the beginning of planned strategies to increase security. The goal is to make sure that everyone who comes into a school is supposed to be there. Ms. Brown indicated that the district is looking at future changes to ensure all visitors must pass through a checkpoint.
Candy Hofsted, principal at Bailey Elementary School in nearby Woodbury, CT, stated:
“As a school district we have made strides in this direction. The older elementary buildings in our district have recently been renovated, which included adding a second set of doors that are locked throughout the day, so anyone coming into the building is required to go through the main office and sign in. While we have plans to begin some of those same types of renovations at our newer elementary schools, that will be several years into the future.”
The website of the South Washington County School District has added a comprehensive Questions and Answers page, which covered subjects from this new policy of locking all doors except the front doors, with the special security in the large lobby area just inside, to upcoming measures to be implemented as the school year progresses. Even after school programs have been adjusted to include lessons for the students on how to stay safe, as well as efforts to make sure that students are picked up from school by identified adults.
Three links on that site that come from professional organizations are particularly informative:
School Safety and Crisis Resources
from the National Association of School Psychologists
Caring for Kids After Trauma, Disaster and Death: A Guide for Parents and Professionals
from the New York University Child Study Center
Helping Your Gifted Child Cope with Tragic Events
from the Gifted Children Guide and Carol Bainbridge
As parents, teachers, administrators and students continue to work through this ongoing crisis in too many schools, let us all hope and pray that these and other classrooms can return to being places where students could safely study their lessons with a minimum of fear.