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Need for Safety in Local Schools Reinforced by Newtown Tragedy

The Port Washington-Saukville School District explains its emergency policies after reports that a shooter killed more than 20 people, including kids, at an elementary school in Newtown, CT.

A Connecticut community is reeling from tragedy and communities across the nation are reacting with thoughts of fear, sadness and anger after a 20-year-old man went on a shooting rampage, ending , according to early reports.

"I'm upset when my daughter goes to kindergarten I'm going to have to ask for detailed reports of their plans against a mass shooting," Aimee King wrote on Facebook. "It's scary. Even to take her in public for fear of a mass shooting."

Port Washington-Saukville School District Superintendent Michael Weber said school officials had not broke the news of the tragedy to its students as of late afternoon, thinking it would be best to keep them calm and in their normal routine.

"This is just a horrible tragedy — there just isn't words to describe it … it's just unbelievable," Weber said. "It's really a tragic thing that this happened — and we had been all the way along making certain that we kept our students as safe as we could ... and now something like just reinforces what we've been doing."

Weber said all of the teachers and staff at the building have both electronic and printed copy of the emergency policies in the district; Director of Business Services Jim Froemming and Director of Special Services Duane Woelfel are in charge of the emergency policies, he said.

The 55-page manual discusses procedures for emergencies such as bomb threats, missing student, weapons on premise, lockdown procedures, suspicious packages, riots and more.

"In our updates we run the manual by Port and Saukville (police departments) the Ozaukee County Sheriffs' Dept., Ozaukee County Emergency Management, and  Ozaukee County Health to make revisions and confirm contact numbers in the process," Froemming said.

The students at the schools regularly participate in not only fire drills following these procedures, but also "lockdown" drills, Weber said. Two schools are scheduled to have a lockdown drill in January.

"And the students know ahead of time that it's coming so they're not scared," he said.

A few years ago, Weber added, staff met with several Ozaukee County law enforcement agencies at Dunwiddie Elementary School for a "mock exercise" of emergency situations, and the district's procedures were then reviewed by national experts.

And the district isn't going to let these policies become outdated: at the last administrative meeting in November, Weber said they discussed doing some "table top exercises" to refine the district's policies.

"A simple tabletop exercise is a facilitated analysis of an emergency situation in an informal, stress-free environment," according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. "It is designed to elicit constructive discussion as participants examine and resolve problems based on existing operational plans and identify where those plans need to be refined."

Beyond the policies, Weber said the district practices safety every day to be sure the children are in a secure environment.

"This afternoon after this happened, the principals and custodians made sure that all of the doors are locked that are supposed to be locked," he said, adding that one door nearest the office is the only one left unlocked. "In fact, there's a daily check throughout the day to make sure the doors are all locked."

And while taking precautions is important, one local resident said we can't let these incidents make us afraid.

"To live in fear, would be to not live at all," Jacqueline Killey wrote on Facebook. "Precautions need to made for public places, but criminals always find a way. You do what you can to stay safe, and hope for the best, really. I cannot think of any other way to ensure safety. But we cannot live in terror because of shootings. I cannot live with myself if I let the senseless monsters out there win. Teach your kids kindness and compassion. They are the only things that overpower fear and hate. My heart goes out to all involved. I can hardly breathe. Just, wow."

Tom Kamenick December 15, 2012 at 02:17 PM
No anti-gun law that has ever been proposed could have stopped this. One responsible adult with a gun could have, or at least could have reduced the scope of the tragedy.
Joanne December 16, 2012 at 04:20 PM
This was a Horrible Tragedy and my heart goes out to the families in Conn. You know I have said this for some time GET THE VOTING POLLS OUT OF the schools!!! couple times a year anyone can walk right in and do whatever.. Time to change
Ken December 16, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Why do we have security guards at factories, office buildings and banks but not at schools where we have our most precious and most valuable?

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