RSU 13 extra vigilant after Newtown tragedy
Rockland — Following last week's tragic events in Newtown, Conn., where 26 people — mostly children — were killed by a lone gunman at a primary school, Regional School Unit 13 is practicing extra vigilance.
"It was a horrible event and we're still trying to process it," Superintendent Lew Collins said Dec. 17. Collins added he does not want to increase the anxiety of students and the public, stressing that managing such an instance is a balancing act.
Collins said although a child being a victim at school is a "1 in 20 million chance," the district is taking measures to further protect students and staff.
These extra measures include ensuring there is only one way in and one way out of a building, with staff manning the designated entrance and exit, particularly in the morning. The Central Office will practice the same policy this week.
Collins said outside recess will continue, although it will be tightly monitored.
After the holiday break, in January, the temporary policies will be reviewed.
Collins said the district's crisis plan was reviewed by all staff members in September, including practice drills, lock down procedures and communication with police and parents.
On Dec. 14, Collins said he asked principals to meet with school staff to go over crisis plans again so all are familiar with the intricacies of procedures.
Collins said typically, a lockdown procedure would be implemented in the instance of an internal threat, prohibiting an intruder from entering a classroom. Teachers are instructed to lock the door and hide students.
The word "lockdown" is be announced over the PA system to alert educators and students of a threat.
Two weeks ago, a lock-out procedure at South School was issued, as the school was concerned about an individual entering the building, said Collins.
The lock-out lasted most of the day until the individual was apprehended by police, said Collins. The person in question was not found near the school. Collins did not share additional information about who the person was or why their presence was considered a threat.
Collins said when he was hired by the district this year, he was adamant about having a "one call" system. This system automatically sends those on the receiving list a message from the superintendent, either through a call, text or email. The district's technology director pushes one button and the information is disseminated instantly.
Collins said there are copycat mentalities in this country and added the time of year is a "pushing over the edge time for many" for those with mental illness or dealing with loss.
Although a threat to the district is remote, he said additional precautions are worth it.
In a letter to staff sent Dec. 16, Collins closed with,"keep your spirits up, be strong, and let’s not forget to embrace the joy as well."
Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.