Windham superintendent reflects on school safety following Sandy Hook

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Windham - posted Fri., Dec. 28, 2012
Like many districts across the country, Windham public schools will be looking carefully at safety procedures in the aftermath of the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

According to Windham Superintendent of Schools Ana Ortiz, planning for how to respond locally in the aftermath of the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School began as soon as the magnitude of the event had set in. “It was tough,” she said on Dec. 20, nearly a week after the shootings took place.

On Monday, Dec. 17, “The director of pupil services and I went to every school,” said Ortiz. There were assemblies planned at the high school to allow students to “talk and express their feelings,” she said. Counselors and school psychologists made themselves available to any student, from any grade level, who wanted to talk. “They didn’t get as many as they expected,” said Ortiz. “Many kids preferred not to talk about it.” Looking back over the previous week, “It’s been a whirlwind of activity,” said Ortiz.

Part of that activity involved meeting with members of the local police, as well as resource officers from both the middle school and high school. “We looked at our policies and procedures and we’ll be working on those,” said Ortiz. A lock-down drill had been completed in the district only a week before the shootings, “and they had done very well,” said Ortiz. There were a few details that would be changed slightly. And, though the majority of schools already utilized locked doors with a buzzer system, the main administrative building, which housed preschool classes, had not. That has been changed. There has also been talk of installing a panic button system. “So someone doesn’t even have to pick up the phone,” said Ortiz. “They just push a button and the police are alerted.”

But, unlike in other districts nationwide, Ortiz said she hadn’t heard talk of armed guards in every school or bullet-proof glass for school buildings. “That’s not something that people have been talking about,” she said. Overall, said Ortiz, the discussion regarding school safety would be ongoing for quite some time.


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