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Editorial: School administrators keep safety in mind

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The tragic shootings at an elementary school in Connecticut have left many Johnson County parents concerned about their children’s safety in local schools.

But anxious residents can take some measure of reassurance in the quick and ongoing review of security measures undertaken by local school administrators.

During the weekend following the shooting, superintendents across the county went over their emergency response plans. The plans are reviewed annually as well as anytime a shooting or similar tragedy occurs.

School officials needed to be sure the shootings didn’t expose any holes in their plans. They also wanted to be ready with a quick, comprehensive answer for any parents who asked about the safety of local schools.

“You play out the incident ... and ask yourself, if this was us, and this was the same kind of person, what would happen,” Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson Superintendent Matt Prusiecki said.

Local superintendents reviewed updates to their security systems and plans in the emails and messages sent to parents over the weekend and on the following Monday. Then during the course of the next week, administrators continued to review security issues.

In Center Grove, Superintendent Richard Arkanoff announced he would move up planned security upgrades. “I like to help parents relax a little,” he said. “We owe it to parents to do all we can.”

In Franklin, Superintendent David Clendening asked facilities manager Bill Doty to start assessing buildings’ entrances to see whether they’re secure or need to be updated.

Those updates could include short- and long-term upgrades, although Clendening doesn’t know yet what those could include or when they could be installed.

“Obviously we look into any option we can to make our buildings as safe as possible,” he said.

When many Johnson County schools were built, designing the building to keep the wrong people out wasn’t a major focus. But now it is a top concern for parents and administrators. The amount of security a school’s visitor has to go through often depends on when the building was built.

Indiana has one of the most rigorous school safety programs in the nation. Principals go through security training provided by the Indiana Department of Education once a year.

In addition, schools regularly go through drills with local law enforcement to assess and revise emergency response plans.

Interim Clark-Pleasant Superintendent Becky Courtney-Knight characterized the situation this way: “Not only does something like (Newtown, Conn.) remind us of why we have this plan in place, but there’s always new information about best practices.”

While school leaders can’t guarantee absolute safety, parents and community members can be reassured by the quick reviews of security procedures done by school staff and the ongoing assessments and improvements made.

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