Deputies make security recommendations to local schools
Hope — Deputies from the Knox County Sheriff's Office are working with local schools to make security recommendations in the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14, said Knox County Sheriff Donna Dennison.
Dennison said in an email she "sent teams to visit schools shortly after the incident [in Connecticut] to reassure the teachers and children" and initiate a supportive relationship between KCSO and the schools. Deputies have already visited Hope Elementary School and Union Elementary School. Deputies planned to visit Prescott Memorial School in Washington but had to cancel that visit due to weather, according to Dennison.
"We make suggestions we believe could make the schools more secure," Dennison wrote.
Hope Elementary School Principal Carol Hathorne said deputies from KCSO reached out to her about observing a lock-down drill at the school earlier in January, and later provided her with constructive feedback about what measures could be implemented to make Hope Elementary School more secure.
Recommendations made by deputies for the school include installation of buzzer entry at the front door of the school, which is presently the only entrance that is not locked, said Hathorne. She said she has been working to gather input from families on the recommended security measures and has received responses from about a half dozen families who have all expressed support for the security upgrades.
"Our concern, quite honestly, is changing the feel and scaring the kids. I said 'let's gather information before making a recommendation,'" said Hathorne.
Hathorne said the input of families has been solicited via a newsletter and she anticipates a more formal meeting will commence once formal recommendations are made. She added that administrators are in the process of gathering information from other area schools as well as collecting financial information pertaining to the cost of the security upgrades.
"I would invite a parent and community meeting before making any recommendations to our school committee," she said.
Hathorne said the school has "done a number of drills with law enforcement over the past few years," but those drills have mostly been limited to working with Maine State Police. She said she is happy to have an opportunity to work closely with KCSO deputies and is pleased that they reached out to the school.
Dennison stated Sgt. John Palmer and Deputy Nathaniel Jack recently completed D.A.R.E. school and that training will mean that they will be present in the schools more often.
"We plan to work in cooperation with the schools sharing a common goal. Deputies are to make more frequent stops at the schools," Dennison said in an email.
Hathorne said she plans to reach out to other area principals to discuss school security as well.
"This is not a quick change," Hathorne said.
Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org