District works to reassure students, enhance school safety

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Thu., Dec. 20, 2012
Like so many other districts across the nation, Hebron public schools are paying increased attention to safety procedures after the Sandy Hook shootings in order to assure that students in the town's schools are kept safe. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

Less than 36 hours after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown, Conn., Acting Hebron Superintendent Kathryn Veronesi was in touch with the parents of the students in her district. Veronesi had been at the helm less than 24 hours when she sent out a reassuring e-mail to the town’s parents; Ellie Cruz, who’d served the district for more than eight years, spent her last day in Hebron on Dec. 14, before leaving for her new position in Plymouth.

Veronesi’s Dec. 15 e-mail reminded parents of safety procedures that are already in place in Hebron. “Our schools have safety protocols that are followed every day in terms of buzzing people into our buildings and requiring them to come to the office to sign-in and get a visitor’s badge,” it read. “Staff members know that if they see an adult in our building without a badge they should ask the person to report to the office and call the office right away. Students know to tell an adult if they see someone without a badge.”

Veronesi wrote of various code drills that the district practices on a regular basis, including the Code Red, which is a full lockdown.  “We…just practiced a Code Red at both schools on Friday, November 30th,” said Veronesi. “Staff and students were fully locked down within a matter of minutes and the drills at both schools were carried out successfully.”

Veronesi wrote of planned meetings at Hebron Elementary for Monday, Dec. 18, for all grade levels (three through six). “The purpose of pulling students together will be to provide students with a sense of community and publicly communicate staff support and assure students that their school is a safe place,” read the e-mail.

On Tuesday, Dec. 19, Veronesi met with the administrative team, Board of Education Chairwoman Kathy Shea and Hebron’s Resident Trooper Fittzsimmons to review current plans, make any immediate changes necessary and make suggestions for long-term improvements. Veronesi said that the meeting resulted in some decisions regarding areas where procedures could be tightened up to immediately enhance existing safety procedures. Regarding long-term goals, Veronesi said it would be an ongoing issue that would most likely end up involving changes at the state and national levels. “We’re not going to just talk about it this week,” she said. “It will be an ongoing discussion.”

Regarding input from the community, Veronesi said she’d been inundated with e-mails and phone calls. Some of the suggestions had included the reinstatement of a school resource officer and bullet-proof glass for doors and windows. But overall, said Veronesi, the community reaction had been positive. The feedback “has indicated that parents do feel comfortable and very appreciative of the communication at the school,” she said.

Regarding students’ reactions, Veronesi said, “Children feel traumatized to the extent that they feel threatened.” Staff made an effort to welcome children back into a supportive environment. “I think that helped them to carry on when they came back to school,” she said. “It’s important to remind children that life is mostly good and that they are taken care of.”

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