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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 5 years ago

Schools tighten security, in face of Newtown massacre

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A constant presence by staff and security officers is the first line of defense for area schools. Classroom doors will also now be locked throughout the district.

BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER

The Dec. 14 shooting at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school has education officials in Ormond Beach looking at new ways to keep their campuses safe.

Among the drills local schools run on a regular basis, such as for fires or chemical spills, one is to respond to a gunman.

“In Volusia County schools, there’s probably 100 security procedures that pretty much entail everything,” Ormond Beach Middle School Principal Matt Krajewski said. “We’ve actually had training on something called an ‘active shooter.’

The school has lockdown procedures in place, as well as those for evacuation. And the tactics are practiced.

During the gunman drill, the school goes on lockdown. Teachers lock and keep students away from the classroom door, among other safety measures.

On Monday, Volusia County Public Schools Superintendent Margaret Smith also sent an email to administrators, implementing a new policy to keep classroom doors locked at all times.

Police presence was increased on school campuses this week, as well, including an Ormond Beach Police Department patrol car at Ormond Beach Middle School during students’ arrivals.

Counseling services will be available at each school, too, for students, parents and staff who might need it.

Some schools, like Ormond Beach Middle, even run various sub-scenarios during its “active shooter” drill. One is to practice what to do if a fire alarm is pulled.

If an alarm sounds during lockdown, teachers are told to keep students in the classroom, and make a visual check of the area, using their computers to check video feeds, from cameras posted in the hallways.

Both Krajewski and Assistant Principal Wes Porter emphasize the school’s safety procedures, process and training, along with being vigilant everyday, as the best ways to be as prepared.

“I did get on the morning announcements (Monday) morning and told them, ‘Your safety is our top priority,’” Krajewski said. “And reminded them we’ve practiced drills and have procedures in place.”

For schools, a constant presence is their first line of defense.

“It’s huge,” said Jerry Sasser, a school resource deputy based at Seabreeze High School. “One thing that I do in the morning is, I’ll sit out in my car, to slow down traffic, but also to let people know there’s a police presence here … You can’t sit in your office. You have to be visible.”

All Seabreeze students, faculty and staff are required to wear photo identification at all times, Sasser added, which makes it easier to pick out possible threats.

To keep students from panicking, Sasser, along with other Seabreeze faculty and staff, also decided not to inform them of the shootings in Newtown while they were occurring. Many students, Sasser said, didn’t find out until they went home.

“I think everyone’s stepping up security a little, but just to remind people of their presence,” he said. “In the end, it’s really going to help out.”

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