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Posted: 01/09/13

RCS considers safer
doors after CT shooting

Observer Staff Writer
      Romeo Community Schools (RCS) officials are working on increasing safety in its district following the aftermath of the Connecticut elementary school shooting.
       On Jan. 3, school resumed for Sandy Hook Elementary students for the first time since a gunman entered their building and killed 20 first-grade students and six educators before taking his own life.
       The shooting, which took place about a month ago in Newtown, Conn., is considered one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.
       As the Sandy Hook students attended a different school located in a different city, classes resumed four days later in Michigan for RCS on Jan. 7 with a promise from administrators that safety measures will be scrutinized to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring.
       Superintendent Nancy Campbell said before winter break started, administrators met to begin discussions on reviewing safety policies and procedures for the district. Meanwhile, principals have held discussions with their own school safety or crisis teams.
       "We have a responsibility for student safety," Campbell said. "Students can't learn if they don't feel safe."
       One of the major changes under investigation is installing buzz door systems in each school entrance. Campbell said administrators have met with the district's architects, IDS, and poured over blueprints to install doors that must be remotely opened by school workers.
       "It's important for what each system will look like, not all of the schools are identical," Campbell said.
       Part of the investigation is determining whether the district can use sinking funds to pay for the systems. The funds can be only used for projects like facility maintenance and construction, but Campbell said this should be looked into before using general fund money.
       "We're waiting to see the plans and the fees for what the architects drew up," Campbell said.
       One option presented to districts in the wake of the shooting was the placement of armed guards in each school. Campbell said she doesn't see this measure happening at RCS.
       She did, however, say the district will increase the amount of lock down drills it holds in a year. She said they will likely hold more drills than the law requires, beginning with a drill held this month.
       A meeting of the district's 25-member crisis team is expected to be held this week where they will hold a debriefing on the incidents that took place in Connecticut.
       "I hate to say it, but if something similar were to occur in Romeo, we need to figure out whether the safety plans we have would be optimal," Campbell said. "Right now we think they are."
       The district's safety plans are confidential documents unavailable for public viewing. Campbell said this is to protect students since the documents spell out what students should do or where they should be located during safety protocols.
       She said re-vamping the safety procedures and plans will not be an overnight fix, and expects to address them throughout the year.
       "It's horrible that it takes a tragedy to make everyone review what they're doing, but it's an opportunity to say what is the best practice, what are similar schools doing and what are we doing," Campbell said.
       A letter sent to RCS parents on Dec. 16 stated the district would review its policies and offered extra support for students in the form of counselors, social workers and school psychologists.

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