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December 18. 2012 11:50PM

Weare elementary changes procedures in aftermath of Conn. shooting

WEARE - Since the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Friday, Principal Jess Potter has been taking a closer look at how procedures are handled at Center Woods Elementary School and some changes are taking place both in the short run and for the long term.

On Tuesday, parents and students began a new dismissal system aimed to keep the kids indoors until their parents or caregivers arrive. Potter said the old system had kids heading out to meet their parents, who either walked or drove up to get them. But recently, parents, staff and administrators have been talking about security at the school and one of the suggestions that came out of those discussions was to develop a new procedure for after-school dismissals. After Friday's tragedy, it seemed like the right time to put that new plan into action.

The new procedure requires parents to display an orange star on their dashboard with their child's name on it. Students will be kept inside the building until their name is called to be dismissed. The dismissal staff outside will radio the names of the students to staff inside the building and the children will be escorted to their cars. Staff will also be requiring identification and notification from parents if someone new is going to be picking up a student.

"We thought this new procedure was going to take twice as long as the old one," said Potter, "but it only took about five minutes more, and I have some ideas for where we can save some time."

Potter said that still needs to be a change made to how visitors enter the building. Right now, all the doors to the school are locked when classes are in session and staff members man a desk in the hallway and check visitors in. But the process needs to be improved for safety, said Potter.

"This facility was not built with those recent events (Newtown) in mind," she said. "It was built to be a friendly, open, inviting place, but these days we need more security."

Potter said she and her staff are working with SAU officials as well as people trained to handle emergencies including the fire chief and police.

"We're taking advice from the experts on this," Potter said.

The goal for the school is to become safer for everyone without losing its warmth and comfort.

"We don't want to be complacent, but we also don't want to overreact," said Potter.

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Nancy Bean Foster may be reached at nfoster@newstote.com.


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