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School security a topic of discussion

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 11:46 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 11:47 a.m. CDT

In light of Sandy Hook Elementary’s shooting in Newtown, Conn., thoughts are still bouncing around in the minds of parents: is my child safe?

“And every parent knows there is nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet, we also know that with that child’s very first step, and each step after that, they are separating from us; that we won’t – that we can’t always be there for them. They’ll suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments. And we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear,” said President Barack Obama in his address of the Newtown, Conn. shooting.

Close to home

The Creston Schools administration met Dec. 17 and reviewed the school policies.

“The principals and I did visit,” said interim Superintendent Chuck Scott, “... and we’ve taken the position that if children bring it up, we should answer the questions as best we can and with specific facts. If children want to pursue it beyond that, then we strongly encourage them to visit with their parents.”

One thing strongly emphasized by many educators was the students needed to be put back into a schedule as soon as possible.

“(One) thing that we did was be highly visible on that first day. Since our earliest grades, our youngest children in this building, I went up to the office and they gave me a smiley face sticker to indicate I’m a friendly person, and I purposely walked the hallways and I walked in the lunchroom wih children eating just to show them that this is a safe place,” said Scott.

Scott said the Department of Education and the Governor’s office sent emails in a timely fashion with things everyone should be thinking about from the standpoints of the superintendent, principal and teacher.

“Schools are a safe environment, they know there are friendly people here and children will be protected in the event that something goes wrong,” said Scott. “We also pride ourselves in being consistent, whch means, ‘Welcome back to school, it’s Monday morning. Let’s get down to the task at hand.’ For the children that need some additional emotional attention, we’re there for them, too.”

Creston Elementary School

Immediately Monday morning, Creston Elementary School Principal Brad Baker sent out an email focusing on two things: ensuring the students were safe and that they felt safe, and to get them back into a normal routine.

“I think the governor put it best: regardless of how well prepared you are, it doesn’t ensure an incident like that will not occur,” said Baker. “And I think that’s the life we live in, but I also think that we have to make sure that we live, not in fear, and move on, and remember obviously our minds and our hearts are in it with the Connecticut people.”

One point Baker made was the school did not want to address it with the students, but rather preferred the parents to discuss it with their children. He also said there are guidance counselors and success coordinators at the elementary school, as well as at the other buildings.

“Peace begins within,” said Jane Shantz, success coordinator at Creston Elementary School. “It starts wth each and every one of us being nice to each other and treating each other with kindness, and that’s what we can do.”

Creston High School

“I think everybody was just kind of in disbelief,” said Creston High School Principal Bill Messerole. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw it, but I couldn’t believe Columbine either.”

Messerole said after the Columbine shooting, where 12 students and one teacher were killed at Columbine High School in Colorado, intruder drills became much more important.

“I think generally parents are asking the same questions we are: do we have a plan in place?” said Messerole. “Can our plan be improved, is it a good plan, is it enough? I think those are all questions the community asks when something like this happens.”

Currently, the schools do have drills and reminders for the students and teachers to review. The teachers have a crisis plan which they review during drills.

“Unfortunately it’s a sad reminder of what takes place in our society,” Messerole said.

Security measures

Currently, Creston High School has in place security cameras throughout the building, and there are discussions about adding more. Also, visitors must stop by the main office and sign in before continuing on into the building.

At Creston Elementary School and Creston Middle School, visitors must sign in and wear a visitor’s sticker if walking around the building.

Every school building has all the doors locked except for the main doors, and someone is always monitoring who is coming in.

“You have to balance between ‘This is a welcoming environment, we’re glad you came, walk right in,’ versus ‘Are we at the point where we have to go to the security system and buzz them in?’” said Scott.

The Creston Schools website, www.crestonschools.org, is updated frequently with relevant information for each building.

Creston Schools also has “School Reach,” a program that lets parents and students know what is going on in Creston School District via text message, phone message and email. To sign up, call the administration office at 641-782-7028.

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