The effects of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., are still being felt in District 833.
Six of the newer elementary schools in the district will soon have greeters at the doors to monitor visitors, said Barb Brown, communications director for South Washington County Schools.
The six are newer schools that don’t have checkpoints in place that came with previous HVAC updates, Brown said. Visitors come into an open area when they enter the schools.
“That has been a concern,” Brown said.
Officials are determining whether the person will be an existing staffer or a new hire. The greeters will be in place when school resumes Jan. 2 following the winter break, Brown said.
“It’s a short-term solution,” she said.
The district is looking at future changes to ensure all visitors must pass through a checkpoint.
From Candy Hofstad, principal at Bailey Elementary in Woodbury:
We wanted to provide you with an update regarding the most commonly asked question for us this week: What can be done to make our building more secure, especially the main entrance and its wide open space?
As a school district we have made strides in this direction. The older elementary buildings in our district have recently been renovated, which included adding a second set of doors that are locked throughout the day, so anyone coming into the building is required to go through the main office and sign in. While we have plans to begin some of those same types of renovations at our newer elementary schools, that will be several years into the future.
As we work toward a long-term solution, we plan to have a staff person dedicated to monitoring the main doors when we return from winter break. The main responsibility for this position will be to track people who are coming and going throughout the school day. This position will be located in the commons just inside the main doors
Thank you for your diligence in following volunteer protocol and checking in at the office every time you enter our school.
Similar messages were sent out by Middleton Elementary and Liberty Ridge Elementary in Woodbury.
South Washington County Schools also posted a Q&A about safety on its website:
Does the district have a current Emergency Plan?
District policy 806 Crisis Management is in place, as well as an Emergency Plan that is aligned with the Comprehensive School Safety Guide, a plan developed through Homeland Security and Emergency Management through the State of Minnesota. The plan includes all four phases of crisis management including: prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
Where is the plan for review?
The policy is available: Click Here
For safety reasons, the district's plans and procedures are available on a limited basis. We have shared them with local law enforcement and district administration. However, to ensure the wrong people don't have ready access, we do not plan to post them in a public location. Visit with your school principal or a district office administrator if you want more information in this regard.
Why was there a police presence at district schools?
We appreciate the efforts of our local police and public safety departments to show their support of our schools. Much as they do at the start of the school year, or other busy times, those law enforcement officers assigned to various parts of the community added stops and visits to their schools during their regular patrol. As Woodbury Director of Public Safety, Lee Vague, said, "we believe in showing support for our community schools and being accessible to students, parents and staff for the greater good.”
What is going to be done at the elementary schools with the large commons area and little front entry security?
During the school day, the only open door once school has begun and until the end of the day is the main entrance. All other doors are required to be locked. You may be aware that at some of our older elementary schools where all of the mechanical systems have been replaced, there are double entry doors. These doors result in visitors having to go through the office to check in. We are working with those elementary schools to reinforce the purpose for those doors and ensure they are being used appropriately.
We have a number of elementary schools with open, welcoming commons areas that serve many positive purposes. These spaces, however, are not responsive to our security concerns. For these sites we are exploring options and communicate with those school communities the option that accommodates current needs. We do have a plan to alter the entrances of a few more elementary buildings as part of a mechanical system renovation project. The changes will channel people through the office during the school day.
What are the security measures taken at the district’s secondary schools?
During the school day, the only open door once school has begun and until the end of the day is the main entrance. All other doors are required to be locked. At the main entrance, there is a kiosk where people must check in when they enter. Because these are very busy facilities with many people coming and going throughout the day, we do everything to ensure all other doors remain locked. Additionally, there is an assigned School Resource Officer at each of our middle and high schools.
What is the district strategy to rectify the issues that need to be enhanced for optimal security?
District administration has been working through a consultant that previously supported the Minnesota Department of Education's Emergency Preparedness Department. The plan has been under continual review and revision. We are currently developing training for all staff and the role they would play in crisis response. If budget constraints are preventing some of the needs, for example, improvements to video security, proposals will come through the upcoming budgeting process to address those needs.
What is being done after hours when activities continue into the evening hours?
With regard to the before and after school child care program, Kids Club, there is a policy and procedure manual that includes information about their emergency procedures. In addition, our staff oversee those programs in much the same way practicing fire, tornado and lockdown drills in the slightly different environment. Underway is identification of safe evacuation sites for after hours situations. Provisions are allowed for parents to pick up children outside of regular school hours.
Where can parents go for more information, or to share other concerns?
Either your school principal or the district office administration at 651-458-6300, will discuss your questions or concerns. Know that as they do every day, our teachers are focusing on caring for their students and meeting their needs in a developmentally appropriate way. Support staff are also on hand to help with any additional questions or inquiries of students.
The tips from the National Association of School Psychologists and other leading organizations listed below would be helpful with conversations that may take place at home.
School Safety and Crisis Resources from the National Association of School Psychologists
Caring for Kids After Trauma, Disaster and Death: A Guide for Parents and Professionals New York University Child Study Center
Helping Your Gifted Child Cope with Tragic Events from the Gifted Children Guide and Carol Bainbridge
Connecticut School Shooting: District 833 to Review Safety and Security Practices
Sandy Hook Shooting Prompts Increased Police Presence at Woodbury Schools
Newtown School Shooting: Resources for Parents via Principal of Woodbury's Bailey Elementary
Newtown School Shooting: McCollum Urges Immediate Congressional Action to End 'Epidemic of Gun Violence'
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2nd Amendment Debate: Are We Capable of Hard Work or Are We in Real Trouble?
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How to Talk to Children About Violence in Wake of Newtown School Shooting
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