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December 15, 2012

Local officials react to massacre

By Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star

---- — Shock and horror was expressed by school officials interviewed Friday in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. While they said were waiting for more information about what happened, they said their schools already have procedures in place that should discourage such violence. Oneonta Police Chief Dennis Nayor said his officers are trained how to respond if something similar happened here.

At Delaware Academy Central School District at Delhi, Superintendent Jason Thomson said: “We have everything in place we can do.” This includes one main door, where visitors are required to sign in. If someone seems suspicious, staff members are trained to notify administration. There is a contingency plan for a lock down that will move all students to safety in classrooms if there is an intruder, and a lockout that would keep unwanted individuals outside. Custodians and staff regularly make sure doors are locked.

The school works with local police agencies on its safety policy, he said. In addition Delaware-Chenango- Madison-Otsego Board of Cooperative Educational Services provides school safety training and staff development.

“You want school to be a warm and welcoming place, but you have to keep safety forefront,” Thomson said. “We are doing the best job possible.”

At Oneonta City School District, Interim Superintendent David Rowley said “this has left me speechless. It’s a horrible tragedy.” He has had a number of calls during the day and he assures parents that procedures are in place for lock downs and lock outs. This could help prevent these kinds of incidents, he said. He was waiting for more details about what procedures were in place at the Connecticut school.

In Oneonta, “We are a welcoming school where parents have the ability to come in,” though they are required to register in building offices,” he said.

He did not want to use the incident to promote an upcoming building project that includes security upgrades and video surveillance. However these kinds of incidents should require the district to take the steps that its safety committee that includes representatives from the police and fire departments, have been recommending for several years. This includes having a single point of entry that can be locked electronically, he said. “We need to do more to deal with a changing society.”

Nayor said: “We are in the day and age when these types of incidents unfortunately occur. It’s very sad, especially when they are children.” However school administrators, including those of both colleges, have been working with his department to make the campuses more secure. In addition, Nayor said, his department trains all its officers on responding to school shootings.

Unatego Central School Superintendent Charles Molloy said he was waiting for more information about security procedures at the Connecticut school. But at first glance, he said, it appears steps were in place to prevent such an incident.

“You can’t secure (a building) 100-percent,” he said, adding that Unatego schools have buzzers or card readers that should stop an unwanted individual from coming in.

“We take reasonable precautions to make sure we are safe,” he said. While he will be following the situation to see if changes need to be made, “I hope and pray we don’t have to face something like that.”