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January 14. 2013 11:46PM

Bedford school board reviews security/safety policies

BEDFORD - School board members are up-to-date on security measures in the district after receiving a briefing at Monday night's board meeting.

The district's chief financial officer, Dawna Duhamel, provided an update on measures that have been completed since a 2007 security assessment, as well as more recent security upgrades in light of last month's school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

According to Duhamel, several items from the recommendations provided have been completed, all designed to increase safety and security in Bedford schools.

A district-wide emergency planning committee was established, which includes representatives from each school, administration and the Bedford Police and Fire departments. The committee meets quarterly and works to standardize procedures, study best practice protocols for emergency responses and provide staff training.

Expanded training has been provided to key personnel in emergency response, crisis management and management of threats as well, Duhamel said.

The district is also using new technology to provide immediate communication when necessary, including the AlertNow mass communication system, portable radios for school staff, a district-wide employee identification system and cell phones for key personnel.

To improve security of building perimeters and provide better access control, all visitors are screened upon arrival and buzzed into school buildings, and panic alarms are at key locations.

All classroom doors can now be locked from the inside, instead of teachers having to leave the classroom to lock it from the outside, Duhamel said.

Finally, student dismissal procedures at all elementary schools have been standardized, and the district coordinates all emergency response protocols with police and fire departments.

"They are instrumental in assisting us with our emergency response," Duhamel said, adding that the fire department is on hand during all evacuation drills to provide feedback on the process.

Currently, the schools are working on safety and security improvements in larger gathering spaces of school buildings, including gymnasiums and cafeterias.

Superintendent Timothy Mayes said his office has received calls from concerned parents and even grandparents since the Sandy Hook Elementary School incident, but that in Bedford, the tragedy has prompted review of security procedures.

"It's been a good check for us," he said. "It's caused us to make sure we do what we need to do, even if it takes more time or causes inconvenience to people."

Mayes said there needs to be a balance between being able to get people out of school buildings, in the case of a fire, and keeping them safe inside.

kremillard@newstote.com


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