School district looks to building security and student safety

— The elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., has raised concerns in towns and villages across America about the safety of their local school buildings and the children learning within them. Skaneateles is no different.

Interim Superintendent Judy Pastel said Skaneateles administrators took actions in their district to improve school security immediately upon hearing of the Dec. 14 shootings in Connecticut, and also currently are reviewing the safety and emergency plans throughout the district.

“I believe our children are safe, but the people of Newtown thought their children were safe,” Pastel said. “I don’t think we should be worried, but we must do our due diligence and be aware of individuals who may be making violent statements.”

Pastel described the Skaneateles CSD security measures and changes during the Dec. 18 Skaneateles Board of Education meeting.

“Some things were done immediately,” Pastel said, including a new policy where each of the four district school buildings now have only one point of access during the school day. Entrance to the schools will also be more limited to parents and the public during school events, for example, people who liked to arrive 30 to 40 minutes ahead of a scheduled program will no longer be able to enter the building so far in advance. “This will just give us a better sense of control,” she said.

Monday morning, Dec. 17, the first school day after the Friday shootings in Connecticut, Pastel visited all four school buildings and every principal was “on top of things” and had counselors, psychiatrists and other support staff on site and prepared to offer help to anyone who was in need, she said. Parents have been most concerned with the two elementary buildings, she said, and principals Steven Widrick and Gary Gerst have been available every morning to talk to parents and discuss their concerns and fears. The elementary schools also both have had staff meetings to discuss with teachers how they can especially address stress or fears from students of the age groups targeted in Connecticut.

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