Interim East Providence School Superintendent John DeGoes said that he will never feel comfortable with security in the schools.
“Following what happened in Newtown,” DeGoes said, “I think it will be difficult for anyone who is responsible for children to feel comfortable with the way things are. The access to weaponry is a frightening thing.”
All of East Providence’s schools practice Code Red emergency drills that include locking down the schools and sending children to the corners of rooms. Principals and staff know what to do, DeGoes said. All of the schools have emergency procedures.
“They practice drills frequently, and hope they never have to come to fruition,” DeGoes said.
The superintendent sees no immediate need, therefore, to make specific changes to existing plans.
“By and large, the schools are safe,” he said. “Most of the schools are in pretty good shape.”
But not all of them. Some exterior doors at some schools need to be replaced. And not all schools have video cameras and buzzer systems that help to identify visitors before they get inside a school.
The high school also leaves a back door open all day to allow students to get to the adjacent technology building.
“It’s difficult to lock that down,” he said.
And the office at Riverside Middle School is quite far from the front door. Once someone gets inside, they can go almost anywhere without being spotted.
“Different schools have different problems,” he said. “We certainly need to put a plan together. I know we could do more.”
Parents also are clearly concerned about the access to certain schools, he said.
“Yeah, people are concerned,” DeGoes said. “They ask: How safe are my children, my grandchildren, and my nieces and nephews?”
But there is also some discomfort with spending large amounts of money to limit access to the schools, he said.
DeGoes said the East Providence police have been extremely cooperative since the Newtown shooting in sending patrols to each building, especially at dismissal times.
“They were there not to frighten people, but to show concern and awareness,” he said, “and to demonstrate that they are ready to respond to emergencies.”
People noticed the police presence when visiting the schools on Monday, DeGoes said. He expects that to continue at least in the near future.