(Editor's Note: In the Chappaqua school district's Highlights newsletter, sent out Friday, Superintendent Lyn McKay gave a status update on what security measures the district is taking in the wake of the deadly Newtown, CT school shooting. A status update was supposed to have been given at a Wednesday school board meeting, which was cancelled due to snow and ice on the ground. Below is a copy of McKay's update announcement):
Happy New Year everyone! I hope each of you had a restful and joyful break.
Last month’s tragedy in Newtown, CT., has understandably raised some questions and concerns about school safety and security for us here in Chappaqua.
Nothing is more important than the safety of our students and staff. Rest assured we have a strong safety program in place.
A few years ago, we installed a buzzer system at the main entrance of the elementary and middle schools, and installed intruder function locksets in every classroom in the district, which enable a teacher to lock and secure the door from inside the classroom. We have a District-wide Safety Plan, and there are building-level emergency plans and Emergency Response Teams in place. Staff members have received emergency response training, and each year we practice a variety of emergency drills, including lockdown and lockout drills. All safety and security procedures are reviewed on a regular basis, and police officers patrol our schools every single day. In addition, law enforcement officials have practiced response techniques inside our buildings.
Yet, in the days after the Newtown tragedy, we feel it is important to tighten our safety and security plans and procedures. We conducted thorough reviews of the safety and security measures we currently have in place and, stemming from those reviews, schools already have communicated modifications to their building-level plans, including changes to drop-off and pick-up procedures as well as the admittance of visitors.
Some other refinements we are making include, but are not limited to:
• Installing intruder functions on all exterior pushbar doors
• Installing distress buttons to immediately alert police
• Locking off unused areas of a building to limit access after school hours
Today, a safety consultant conducted a safety and security audit of each school campus and walked through each building, and has scheduled a training session with our administrators and school emergency response teams. Having a safety expert look over our facilities and provide feedback on our planning, response methods, and risk prevention and intervention initiatives will provide another perspective in determining if we can further improve upon our school safety and security protocols.
At the same time we tighten our security measures, we must also continue to ensure that our schools remain warm and nurturing places. We work collaboratively to find that balance through our district’s Health and Safety Committee. This committee of students, staff, parents and law enforcement officials meets every third Thursday at 3:30pm at the Education Center. Their meetings are open to the public so if you have any questions or concerns, please consider attending one, or you can send an email to John Chow at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m sure the coming weeks will yield even more ideas and recommendations for how we can further improve what we believe is already a good system for safety and security. We will proceed in such a way that is both physically and psychologically safe for students across the district.