Even though Newtown, Conn. is about 50 miles away, the effects of last week’s tragedy are readily visible in the Croton-Harmon school district.
The high school, which operates as an open campus, is now monitored more heavily. The front entrance of the Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School used to remain open during the day. It is now closed during school hours.
“We’ve increased police patrols around our schools, with the cooperation of the local police department, and our central office has been working with building administrator to help reassure the students and the staff,” said Edward Fuhrman, superintendent of Croton-Harmon schools.
Prior to last week’s incident, Fuhrman said the school district had begun a security audit of the districts buildings. The Altaris Consulting Group is the firm conducting the audit.
“They do a lot of work for municipalities and school districts and this is their specialty,” Fuhrman said. “The board of education voted to provide funds for this during the summer and we had some conversation at the beginning of the school year. Now, we’re actively involved in doing the audit and looking at our procedures, best practices, hardware and other things from a security point of view.”
Security changes were made at the Carrie E. Tompkins Elementary School last spring, according to Fuhrman. The school now has a buzzer system with camera and all the doors are locked during the school day. Dismissal areas were also set up in more visible spaces.
Fuhrman said district staff haven't had formal talks with elementary students about the incident and have decided to let parents lead those discussions.
“For the older children, we have tried to answer questions as they come up,” Fuhrman said.
Fuhrman said he was unsure how long the district’s security changes will stay in place.
“We’re going to continue for the rest of the week and then we’ll go on break,” Fuhrman said. “We’ll continue to assess things while we’re on break.”
Andrea Furey, president of the Croton-Harmon school, said the school board would make a statement about the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy during its first meeting of the new year.