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December 13, 2013

Area educators: Post-Newtown schools are safer

Area schools are safer today than at the time of the Newtown school shootings, officials interviewed about the subject said Thursday.

Saturday will mark the one-year anniversary of the shootings at the Connecticut elementary school, in which 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 students, six administrators, his mother and himself.

Oneonta Police Chief Dennis Nayor said incidents like Newtown make people aware that such tragedies can happen anywhere.

“Our training has to adapt in response,” he said, adding he didn’t want to give specifics to preserve the department’s edge, but he is always looking at case studies and training to improve the situation.

“We hope we never need it, but should such a situation arise, we are prepared,” he said. Since Newtown, more thought has gone into making sure schools are as safe as possible, he said, and “all we can do is put all the odds in our favor.”

Oneonta City School District Superintendent Joseph Yelich said the school is continuing its security efforts though such things as regular safety committee meetings. The incident has reinforced the district’s dedication to best practices and has made its buildings safer, he said.

A collaboration with local law enforcement, Yelich said, will give professionals a chance to prepare for the full range of possibilities schools are facing, when it comes to safety.

Yelich started in the post in July but after Newtown, the district increased monitors at the entry to its buildings and reduced the number of access points. Voters also approved a building project in January, already in the works at the time, that’s designed to further increase security.

Sidney Central School Superintendent Bill Christensen said “any type of tragedy makes you reflect on your own practices.” Last summer, administrators spent time with state police police to see if any changes were needed, and the resulting measures included placing speed bumps around the campus and changing access to the buildings, he said.

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