2012-12-19 / Front Page

Area Officials Respond To Sandy Hook Aftermath

PSP increasing patrol around schools
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

NEWS EDITOR

Last Friday morning’s tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults has left many with unanswered questions and others with tension and apprehension in sending their children back to school this week.

In Fulton County, Pennsylvania State Police Sgt. Kerby Young and his men at the McConnellsburg substation spent Monday reminding those in the community that the safety of school children, faculty and staff at the area schools remains the “utmost importance” to local law enforcement.

“I think we can all agree the events that occurred in Newtown, Conn., are nothing short of tragic and represent a worst case scenario,” Sgt. Young told the “News” Monday. As a result, Young’s officers spent the day travelling to area school districts to reinforce that fact the state police have always had a strong presence there.

“We felt that it was important to remind the administrations that we were present today,” Young stated. “All patrol troopers were directed to make frequent patrol checks of education facilities not just today but also for the coming months. This is all part of an ongoing process of vigilance with our schools.”

Young went on to note the state police will continue to update and improve on existing response plans for education facilties. At the Forbes Road School District, new Superintendent Mark Loucks confirmed the administration spent a great deal of time conversing with Trooper Ellis Barnett. Loucks said school officials were reassured they could contact state police officials at any time for assistance and appreciated the organization’s offer for increased visibility in the coming months.

Even though attendance was steady at the school and there weren’t any requests from students to meet with guidance counselors, the option remains open at any time for students to meet with counselors to air their concerns. Loucks added a moment of silence was observed by faculty and students that morning for the people of Newtown and Sandy Hook Elementary as well as later that evening at the boys varsity basketball game against Southern Huntingdon.

Furthermore, in reviewing its existing security, the district intends to use the findings recently brought to light through the completion of a risk and vulnerability assessment by the Pennsylvania State Police, Domestic Security Division. Loucks stated elementary Principal Paul Swope has requested grant money that would be used to enhance existing security measures that were evaluated in the state police assessment.

The Southern Fulton School District will also be referring to the state police risk and vulnerability assessment of their facilities in the months that follow, according to interim Superintendent Hervey Hann. The top administrator said the assessment “will become a greater priority for all.”

Hann further elaborated that the district already had Safety Committee meetings and administrative meetings on its schedule so any security issues will be added to those meeting agendas. “We can do an internal assessment, which will allow us to look for short- and long-term solutions for any weakness that we find,” he said.

Richard Daubert, interim su- perintendent at Central Fulton, shared many of the same sentiments and findings as his neighboring administrators. Daubert said student attendance was within standard range on Monday. However, with various viral illnesses circulating with more frequency this time of the year, the dip in attendance could not be directly linked to the Sandy Hook tragedy and any apprehension of parents and guardians.

“Our attendance yesterday was within a normal range. We had 92 percent of our children present,” said McConnellsburg Elementary Principal Alicia Mellott.

Daubert stated the school continues to review its safety procedures and drills with staff and will remain vigilant in its continued monitoring for the safeguarding of the children.

“Yesterday we received only a few phone calls and questions regarding school security from parents,” Principal Mellott added. “... A letter from the building administration will be sent home with elementary children within the next few days to outline our current safety policies and intentions of our local law enforcement in the coming weeks.”

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