By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – John Lebeaux, chair of the Board of Selectmen, invited Dr. Joseph Sawyer, the Shrewsbury School Superintendent, to attend the selectmen’s meeting March 27 to update them on safety measures that the School Department have in place in the event of a security breach.
“In light of recent events I thought it was appropriate that we get a broad overview of what Shrewsbury Public Schools are doing relative to safety,” Lebeaux stated.
“It was in 2012 when the incident happened at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut that the department began to take a more intensive look at the Pre-K to 12 environments, drills in active shooting situations became more prevalent and here we are in 2018 and we have the Margery Stoneman Douglas incident in Parkland, Florida,” Sawyer said.
Between Sandy Hook and the Parkland massacre, where 17 people were killed by a former student on Feb. 14, the Shrewsbury School District has taken a strong set of systems and made them stronger, Sawyer said. Physical systems, communications, technology, protocols, assessments and prevention are their primary areas that have reviewed and modified:
- Building access where all the exterior doors are locked at all schools and monitored buzzers at main entrances. The high school is the exception and has its own system.
- Provide barriers to interior doors using devices to jam the doors in the event of an active shooter.
- Video surveillance capabilities which are linked to first responders. Building principals and staff use hand-held radios which have been upgraded recently and all schools are outfitted with a direct radio access to 911 dispatch and are tested regularly.
- Technology is used to send signals remotely through an offsite computer system to notify school leadership of a lock-down situation. For communication to the community they use their school messenger system which is what they also use in the event of a snow storm.
- The Department utilizes a uniform set of procedures across all school buildings should an incident occur. Each school and first responders are on the same page regarding process and terminology. Parents are given this information as well.
- Protocols and buildings are routinely assessed and drills are done to prepare for a variety of scenarios.
The School Department has a Safety and Security Committee made up of staff, parents and first responders. Some of the parents include a former Navy Seal and a federal marshal.
The district is working on ways to prevent a situation by identifying those students that might be at risk and mental health of the students is very much intertwined with school safety. Putting appropriate personnel and risk assessments in place to create a positive school environment is key.