Avon Board To Have Presentation On School Security

The Hartford Courant

The massacre of students and staff at a school in Newtown last week has prompted the board of education to give the public an overview of the security measures in place at town schools.

That presentation will be given when the board meets on Tuesday and was added to the agenda in response to what happened in Newtown, board Chairwoman Peggy Roell said on Monday. The board meets at 7 p.m. at Avon High School.

"This will be so the superintendent of schools can summarize for the board and the community what he has been doing and the content of the emails he has sent out since Friday," Roell said. "What I have heard is that people appreciated Gary's communications and I think that mitigated any questions people might have and minimized concerns."

Each school has a security plan in place that includes provisions for an evacuation. While some school districts in Connecticut have put in an extra police presence this week, officials in Avon decided against that.

"We just want things to be as normal as they can be," said Assistant Superintendent John Sprang in an interview on Sunday.

One change that was implemented on Monday and will remain in effect through the week is to lock the doors at the high school. The doors at the other four schools were already secured and visitors had to be buzzed in. According to an announcement posted on the high school's website, students, parents and visitors must go to the building's main gallery entrance, where a school staff member will let them in. Seniors who leave during the day must sign out and be let back into the building by a staff member.

"While we realize this will be a slight inconvenience to you and to our students, we believe it is a prudent measure for the time being," school Principal Jason Beaudin said in the announcement.

Superintendent of Schools Gary Mala has sent a series of notices to parents and the public since the shootings in Newtown on Dec. 14. One sent on Sunday gave an overview of safety procedures that are in place and also provided resources for parents who think their children may need counseling or other help to deal with emotions from the massacre.

Roell said administrators also talked with school mental health workers on Sunday to prepare for any difficulties when students returned on Monday. But she said she had not heard of many students voicing anxiety and needing help.

The district has also talked to the town's social services department about gettting additional help if need be.

In the letter emailed to parents on Sunday, Mala said that he along with the principals of the five schools in town and central office staff met that day to review emergency procedures and provisions to help any children or faculty having difficulty coping with the tragedy in Newtown. Roell, Town Manager Brandon Robertson and town emergency management director Jamie DePace also attended that meeting.

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