Schools in Wyckoff and Franklin Lakes plan to increase police presence in and around their facilities Monday and prepare for talks with children in the wake of the mass murder of 20 school children and 6 adults at a Newtown, Conn., school on Friday.
As schools across the nation grapple with how to react to one of the worst mass casualty events ever at an American school, educators from Boston to Denver are struggling with how exactly to respond.
Locally, school and municipal officials are working together to bolster police presence and allay the fears of parents.
"The township has stepped up its police patrols at the schools today and parents will be seeing that when they drop off their kids," said Wyckoff Mayor Chris DePhillips Monday morning.
Superintendents in both Wyckoff and Franklin Lakes late Sunday wrote letters to assure parents that concerns, fears, and trepidation would not be ignored and that staff and administration at nearly one dozen schools here would be again properly prepared for any emergency.
"In light of this most recent tragedy, we will be working in conjunction with our local officials and emergency response teams to ensure that our procedures are as strong as they can be, and we will follow them strictly," wrote Franklin Lakes Superintendent Frank Romano. "Throughout this upcoming week, each of the Franklin Lakes schools will have a police officer on the premises for the entire school day. In addition to this, we will heighten our security measures to include limited access by visitors, plan to have administrators and teachers in their regular locations and assignments whenever possible, and engage in additional building walkthroughs to ensure safeguarded facilities."
Franklin Lakes schools "regularly adhere" to single-point-of-entry protocols with cameras and buzzers during school hours, Romano said.
He also stressed that "New Jersey public schools are required to have two emergency drills per month, which include active shooter, shelter in place, bomb-threat, and fire evacuation drills" and, as a result, "administrators, faculty, staff, and students are well prepared for a variety of internal and external threats."
Wyckoff's superintendent also said that a single-point of entry protocol would be used starting Monday "for students arriving early for TAP, band, chorus or extra-help.
"No other doors will be open for students to enter the building before regular school hours," Superintendent Richard Kuder wrote in a letter to parents.
"I have spoken with [Police] Chief Benjamin Fox and will be working in conjunction with the Wyckoff Police Department to fine-tune our procedures to ensure they are as strong as possible," Kuder said.
Wyckoff principals will be meeting with their staff Monday morning about how to best handle student concerns, questions and statements, Kuder said.
"All of us recognize that students will be coming to school with varying levels of knowledge about what occurred on Friday," he said. "Every effort will be made to respond to questions appropriately and then return to regular classroom activities."
Both Kuder and Romano said that elementary school staff will not be proactively discussing the Newtown school shooting with their students, but that it would likely be spoken about in middle school classrooms.
"A middle school age-appropriate message will be read to students during homeroom by the teacher and students will be made aware that counselors are available should the need arise," Kuder said.
Similarly, the Franklin Lakes Superintendent said that "it is reasonable to assume that at the middle school, teachers will hold discussions with students," and that such talks would be "developmentally and situationally appropriate."
We want to know what you think:
- What could schools do to increase the safety of students?
- Did the letters from superintendents ease your concerns?
- How has the world changed for you in the days following the Sand Hook Elementary shootings?
Tell us in the comments below.
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