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The Advocate and Democrat.

Are our local schools safe?

Published: 9:25 AM, 12/19/2012

Author: Staff Report
Source: The Monroe County Advocate




Staff Writer

Friday's mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn., has caused many people to re-examine school safety.

Twenty elementary school students were shot dead along with six adults at the school in the Friday tragedy, making it the second-deadliest school shooting in United States' history, second only to Virginia Tech in 2007.

The Advocate & Democrat asked top local school system officials what is being done to keep students safe here in Monroe County. While mass shootings understandably garner the most attention, there are situations such as child custody battles and other issues that can crop up and threaten safety at any school.

Both director of schools for the Monroe County and Sweetwater City school systems said they were "heartbroken" over Friday's incidents and consider the safety of their students top priority.

"We are shocked and so saddened by what happened in Connecticut," Sweetwater City Schools Director Dr. Melanie Miller said. "Anytime a tragedy like this occurs it reminds each of us just how precious life is and what a tremendous responsibility we have taking care of the children in our school system. We want to keep all children safe and want them to feel safe."

"Our hearts go out to the victims in the tragedy in Connecticut," Monroe County Director of Schools Mike Lowry said. "It's incomprehensible that anything like this could happen, how anyone could do that to such small children. It breaks my heart to think about it. I can't watch it [newscasts]. It's such a tragedy that we can't explain."

Lowry and Tim Blankenship, the assistant director of schools for the Monroe County School System, have been checking with each individual school every day this week, discussing safety and student emotions.

"I've called each one of the schools individually," said Blankenship. "Everyone felt like they had a good climate today [Monday]. We've also been working with our city and county police departments. We've had some discussions and there is heightened safety awareness."

The Monroe County School System's Maintenance Department has continued to update entryway features and locks in the schools. Every school is set up with a buzzer system. To enter the school building, a visitor must hit the button to buzz to the office, who will unlock the door to allow the person to enter once they know A. who it is, and B. what their purpose for visiting is.

"Anyone coming into our schools has to come into the office and sign in after being buzzed in," said Lowry.  

See full story in the Wednesday, Dec. 19, edition of The Advocate & Democrat.

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