Salem, Pelham and Windham schools take a closer look at security measuresBy APRIL GUILMET
Union Leader Correspondent
December 18. 2012 1:26PM
Three days after the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Windham mom Eileen Fallin said she could definitely feel tension in the air when stopping by Windham High School Monday morning.
Fallin had received a text message from her 17-year-old daughter informing her that there was a "real" lockdown at the local high school, after someone reportedly heard "a loud bang."
Though school activities were back to normal less than an hour later, Fallin said walking into the front foyer definitely felt different than before.
"People were looking around when they spoke to each other. They seemed very edgy," Fallin said.
Asked if she felt schools were doing enough to keep children safe, Fallin admitted there are no easy answers.
"I don't know if we can ever make our schools secure enough," she said. "Maybe we could add better access systems, metal detectors, more secure windows. I don't know. But I think these things are going to continue to happen until we all accept and work with the real problem: troubled children who grow into dangerous adults."
On Sunday, Salem Superintendent Michael Delahanty sent a letter home to parents, vowing to work with local police and fire officials to work toward making area schools safer. "It's important to know our schools are safe right now and we're working to discuss strategies to make them even safer," Delahanty said.
Currently, all of Salem's schools have well-rehearsed emergency management plans addressing various types of threats, and Delahanty said staff have been trained to deal with all types of situations that might occur in and around the schools.
The town's middle and high schools each have their own full-time school resource officers who routinely discuss emergency management practices. Delahanty further noted that school resource officers "are also policemen who carry weapons at all times so they're prepared to respond to threats or danger."
Salem's elementary schools currently share a single school resource officer.
"Though he cannot be in all our schools at once, he certainly spends sufficient time at each school to be familiar with emergency plans and routine procedures for minimizing potential threats," Delahanty said. The superintendent added that the tragedy in Newtown has prompted school officials to conduct a more detailed review of emergency management procedures.
Unattended doors will be locked at all times, a measure Delahanty admits has been overlooked in the past.
"There have been times we've been lax about this, but heightened attention will be paid from here on," he stressed. "Rest assured, our support staff, teachers and administrators care very deeply about our students, and their well-being is foremost in our minds and hearts."
In nearby Pelham and Windham, Superintendent Dr. Henry E. LaBranche said similar measures are currently under way. Though all of Pelham's schools have had electronic security systems in place for quite some time now, two of Windham's schools, Golden Brook and Windham Middle schools, do not.
In the days after the Newtown shootings, both schools were fitted with new locks on the doors, LaBranche said, and school staff members and volunteers will be tasked with monitoring the entrances and identifying each and every visitor.
"Those measures are going to continue as we explore the costs of installing full security systems at those schools," LaBranche said.
He stressed that both the Pelham and Windham districts have outstanding relationships with the local police force. During the week leading up to Christmas vacation, there will be an active police presence in both districts, LaBranche added.
"We're doing our due diligence in ensuring safety in all of our schools," he said.