Somberly expressing her condolences to the community of Newtown, Hartland Consolidated Schools Superintendent Janet Sifferman addressed the subject of the Connecticut school shootings during Monday night’s school board meeting.
“I want to publicly acknowledge that our hearts and our thoughts and our prayers go out to Newtown, Connecticut,” Sifferman said. “I think that this is something that has affected our country like 9/11 did and we are praying for the whole community and everyone involved in that.”
Sifferman also reported that she and all of her building principals had received emails and phone calls from concerned parents earlier that day regarding the safety and security plans for Hartland Schools.
“Student safety is the highest priority,” she said.
With the security measures at every school constantly being looked at and updated, Sifferman explained that it was a constant, ongoing process that includes a Critical Incident Management Plan that is updated regularly and a countywide comprehensive security effort.
“I want to assure the public that this isn’t something that we just all of sudden today decided to have a conversation about,” Sifferman said. “This has been around for many, many years and is a constant update.”
In a statement released Monday afternoon, Hartland Schools addressed the community.
"We are updating our buildings to include new entrances, security cameras, telephones in classrooms, and locked-access systems. We have a chief of security on staff who monitors our procedures and facilities to ensure the safety of our students and staff.”
Many of the updates come from the 2010 bond issue, according to Sifferman, and include building updates to all the elementary school entryways, as well as electronic key cards for teachers, which the board approved during Monday night’s meeting, and will be installed soon.
Assistant Superintendent of Personnel and Student Services, Scott VanEpps is in charge of the district's security plans and says that when events like Sandy Hook happen, plans are always reviewed.
“Any time something like this happens, you look at what happened there and you compare and contrast what your plans are and what your situation is,” VanEpps said.
With construction complete on the new the sally port entrances at the elementary schools, VanEpps says that they are now exploring solutions for Farms Intermediate and Hartland Middle School.
Calling the entrances “problematic” VanEpps says that improvements to the schools had already been discussed months before, but now because of Sandy Hook, they have become a higher priority.
“It’s being reviewed,” he said. “And it also makes you reflect on your practices and procedures.”
Although it is a teacher’s choice on whether to leave their classroom doors open during the day, VanEpps said that the staff at Farms is being asked to be more conscious about classroom security and consider keeping their doors shut.
“So it’s a matter of safeguarding their classrooms,” he said. “And to be more vigilant.”