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Safety At NK Schools, One Year After Newtown

Credit: Newtown Patch
Credit: Newtown Patch

If the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 were every school district’s nightmare, what happened a year ago at Sandy Hook Elementary was the rude wake up call.

For North Kingstown School Supt. Phil Auger, the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., "really got us thinking about our protocols, and working with police and fire." 

Police work with each school's safety team on both procedures and possible building modifications. The district also has a Crisis Response Team made up of a few building principals, the superintendent, heads of administration and facilities and the school resource officer.

While some changes are procedural, others will cost real money. Among the changes Auger is looking at is a switch from traditional keys to swipe keys. 

"If you have a swipe key, because it's digital you know who's entering the building and when," he said. And lost keys can be turned off, such as happens in hotels.

Changes to school entrances are being considered, too. And Auger said classroom door locks need to be addressed. Some classrooms can be locked from the inside, some can't. 

A couple of schools have open classrooms, which pose a challenge in terms of figuring out how to lock them down, Auger said. As expected, the safety protocols in those buildings vary from the rest. 

For building principals, it's a mix between the big-picture stuff and dealing with everyday concerns.

"Newtown definitely forced us to review all of our safety and communications protocols," said NKHS Principal Tom Kenworthy. "One of the biggest changes for us is that we now insist upon a single point of entry, our main entrance on Fairway Drive, during the school day. The topic of school safety is a regular discussion in our communications with students, staff, and parents." 

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