In light of the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, last month, the Saddle Brook school district is reevaluating its security policies.
In a letter to parents earlier in January, Superintendent Kathryn Fedina said that “reflection on the recent past requires us to change past practices.”
The first policy the board revisited was school visits.
“It definitely had an impact,” deputy police chief and board trustee Bob White said, referring to the Newtown massacre. “We were going over our security overall, and that was one area we needed to address.”
Visitors to the schools have always been required to sign in and provide a reason for their visit, White told Patch, but the new policy requires guests to call ahead to make an appointment in order to gain entry to the building.
“They’ve always been told that they need a valid reason to be there,” White said. “They can’t just be buzzed in because they’re a familiar face.”
He added that reviewing and tightening the policy after the Connecticut shooting reinforced the visitor policy already in place.
“You’re always concerned with those things,” he said. “You don’t want to become lax.”
“Our District Safety Committee has worked closely with local authorities to develop comprehensive plans to address a wide range of potential scenarios,” Fedina said in the letter. “Each school conducts frequent drills independently and, at times, in coordination with the Police Department to help ensure staff and students are familiar with both lock-down and evacuation procedures.”
The review of school visitation policies was the first step in a broader exploration of school safety procedures under a new School Land Safety committee, to be headed by Bill Havison, who is also a sergeant on the Saddle Brook Police Department.
He and board president Marilyn Nasello will attend a New Jersey School Boards Association meeting in Mahwah Thursday to discuss safety measures with other local school board and police officials.
It’s the beginning of a process of assessing the district’s policies, and implementing any changes that can make the town’s schools more secure.
“In light of what happened, we’re just making sure that all these procedures we had regarding security are being followed,” White said. “And we’ll upgrade other policies if we need to.”