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Schools around South Shore cope with Connecticut shooting

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  December 17, 2012 02:18 PM

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Schools around the South Shore are reviewing their security procedures and ramping up police presence following a Connecticut school shooting on Friday.

On Monday morning, there was a heightened awareness as kids returned to the normal school routine, and though the incident occurred over a hundred miles away, the impacts could still be felt close to home.

In Quincy, there was an increased police presence at school sites, and security was going to be reassessed following the tragedy.

“As our city grieves with the families of Newtown, Connecticut, it is important to emphasize that we are consistently partnering [with] the Quincy Public Schools in all aspects of school security,” Police Chief Paul Keenan wrote in an email sent to parents on Friday.

Officials in the town emphasized that safety has been and continues to be a priority.

Michael Draicchio, Director of Safety, Security, and Transportation even sent out a list of the Quincy schools’ security plans in an effort to reassure parents.

According to the message, all exterior doors are locked, visitors are buzzed into the school by staff, and visitors must supply their identification and purpose of their visit.

Schools are also equipped with security cameras, visitors must wear an ID badge, and emergency safety drills are conducted twice a year.

Those drills consist of lockdowns, evacuations, and reverse evacuations, the message said.

“Our principals along with our safety teams work very closely with the Quincy Police School Resource Officers, Dare Officers and Community Police Unit each day to ensure a safe environment at our schools,” Draicchio said in the letter. “We continue to reinforce our emergency procedure drills that are conducted twice a year in conjunction with our partners the Quincy Police, Quincy Fire, and Fallon Ambulance.”

Quincy also posted talking points to their website on how parents could discuss the incident with their children.

Overall, however, Quincy Superintendent Dr. Rick DeCristofaro said the school had sound safety procedures and that any changes would happen over time.

"[We are] focusing on the current school plan we have and making that the working document," he said. "Eventually we'll will talk internally about changes."

In Braintree, Superintendent Dr. Kurzberg also sent out a message to parents on Sunday regarding the shooting.

“The school committee and administration continue to work closely with the mayor and police department to keep our students safe, both at school and in the community,” wrote Kurzberg, who could not be reached by phone Monday morning. “We will begin the day on Monday with a moment of silence in all schools and will reassure students that they are safe. You can help your child by reinforcing this message at home.”

According to the letter, principal and staff have plans in place to address what happened with students in an age appropriate manner, and there will also be increased police visibility beginning on Monday and continuing throughout the year.

“The important message that we are sending is that our schools remain safe places for your children, with a heightened awareness and vigilance towards maintaining a safe environment for students and adults in our buildings,” Kurzberg said.

Kurzberg also said that by Monday afternoon, parents would receive an update from their school’s principal about what occurred in school.

In Scituate, administrators said they would learn from the school shooting and implement change.

Superintendent John McCarthy said all the town's elementary schools only installed a buzzer system to let visitors into the school last summer. Though similar updates to the high school and middle school were pending for the upcoming summer, those security fixes will now be done sooner.

“We’re trying to catch up," McCarthy said.

Additionally, the school hosted a forum for administrators called "How to Stop the School Shooter" only weeks ago.

Though information was disseminated from that meeting, the procedures the school has in place may change in light of what occurred. Administrators will meet on Thursday to discuss things further.

"If there is an intruder..we lock down. We lock doors, barricade doors, put kids in corners, put out the lights…it may have saved lives there, judging from what happened…it's hard to say, but we’ll learn from this and figure out if we have to change,” he said.

In the meantime, the hope was to keep parents informed through email blasts, and maintain a normal routine.

In fact, according to Jennifer Arnold, principal of Jenkins Elementary School, Monday was business as usual.

“We’re maintaining a normal schedule, back to making children feel comfortable, the same thing we have always done,” she said in a phone interview.

Monday morning, a staff meeting helped reassure teachers that routine would be restored. As for any questions students may have, teachers have been encouraged to divert them.

“We’ve asked them to refer back to their families, say this is a family matter they should discuss with their parents and families,” she said.

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