Officials review school security in aftermath of Newtown massacre
The horrific shooting at an elementary school that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead in nearby Newtown last week prompted an immediate review of security measures and policies at Fairfield's schools.
Superintendent of Schools David Title said that review has been continuing since the tragedy unfolded on Friday and, in the short term, all of the town's schools will have stepped up police presence.
Officers will be on scene at schools during arrival and dismissal times, and also at some evening events.
"This particular measure is meant to be a reassurance," said Police Chief Gary MacNamara, "to calm their nerves ... We want to reassure them that we are there."
At Fairfield's public schools, the level of security varies from school to school. At some buildings, doors are locked after the school day begins and visitors must be buzzed in. Others have security cameras monitoring the entrances. All schools require that visitors sign in at the front office, although some parents have taken to social media to complain about what they consider to be lax security at some of the schools.
On the town's Facebook page, parents voiced their concerns. One woman wrote that she has had friends pick up her son at school, with no one questioning who they were. "I'm seriously thinking of home schooling because unfortunately the town of Fairfield doesn't seem to be taking our children's safety seriously," she wrote.
Another parent said that on the same afternoon of the Newtown shooting, he walked into the gym at his child's school with no trouble. "Our schools, along with 99 percent of all schools in the US have less security than most office buildings," he said.
Others wanted to know if and when new security measures will be announced.
"I wouldn't want to go into where there are cameras, where there are buzzers," Title said. "I can't really talk about a lot of the specifics."
In a letter sent to parents of school children Monday, Title said security is being reviewed not only with school administrators but with MacNamara, the fire chief and the first selectman, as well as other "experts to determine what changes, if any, need to be made."
In the meantime, he said, all schools will have a staff member with an ID badge stationed at the entrance of each school to direct visitors to the main office and all physical security systems will be checked to make sure they are working properly. All door locking and entry systems also will be checked to ensure that they are functioning as designed, he said.
These security meaures are being reviewed with school staff to make sure they are being followed at every school.
"We will look over our approaches and plans," MacNamara said
It states, "In the event of an incident, school district staff will implement appropriate, predetermined meaures such as an evacuation or lockdown initiated by the building administrator. Communication will be initiated immediately with Fairfield police and fire personnel. The staff will follow the predetermined plan under the direction of the building administrator until the arrival of police and fire personnel, who will take command of the situation as appropriate to the nature of the incident. Note: Teachers are required to take attendance records with them and re-assemble students in a predetermined safe area. At this time, the teacher will verify attendance."
If necessary, according to the handbook, a central evacuation site on the Fairfield University campus can be utilized.
"The district staff is trained in a variety of responses to local public health or safety emergencies, including the implementation of a lockdowns and evacuations," the handbook states. "Details of these responses are not publicized for security reasons."
In addition, Title said each school's crisis team is providing resources to any student, family or staff member who needs assistance in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings. A link to those resources is also posted on the Board of Education website.
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