Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca is asking all Vermont schools to review their crisis safety plans and he also wants schools to explore ways to control access to their buildings without turning the facility into a fortress.
Vilaseca says he’s hoping that Vermont schools will develop a multi-pronged approach following the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., and he wants them to review their emergency crisis plans as soon as possible.
"To make sure that they have prepared their staff and students for the multiple things that may occur whether they be a fire drill, whether they be a chemical spill nearby or in this case the worst case scenario where there could be an active shooter either on the premises or around the building."
Vilaseca also wants local school officials to consider ways to limit access to their buildings – either by locking the doors with a video security system or funneling all public traffic through one controlled entrance:
"Also the concept of how easy is it to get into a school," said Vilaseca. "Can they maintain their locked doors during the day so that they have some control over who comes and goes from schools."
Steve Dale is the executive director of the Vermont School Boards Association. He’s hoping that local communities will have a thoughtful discussion before making any significant changes in policy.
"This matter needs to be really thought through in a very through manner with a sense of urgency but certainly not over reacting when we’re in the midst of such a crisis."
And Dale says a policy that works in one town might not be appropriate for another community.
"Most of our school governance is done through local boards, local communities and obliviously circumstances vary," said Dale. "But whether this is deserving of a statewide look from sort of a legislative perspective I think it’s way too early to even contemplate whether that would make sense."
Kevin Christie is the Chair of the Hartford School Board. He’s encouraging parents to talk to their children about any fears that the student might have.
"We all have vivid imaginations but kids have incredible imaginations so if we don’t help them frame this picture they’re going to create one," said Christie. "And so if we can help them frame one that’s manageable for them it’ll help the process."
Christie says school officials rejected the idea of placing armed police officers at the entrance of the town’s three elementary schools on Monday morning but he does want to work more closely with local law enforcement officials.
"So if they did want to do any extra patrols through those dooryards per se that would be welcome but we didn’t necessarily want to have him right in the doorway so to speak."
About 40 schools in Vermont have resource officers on staff. These are law enforcement personnel who provide a variety of services to the student body. Commissioner Vilaseca is hoping that more communities will consider hiring one of these officers in their 2013 budget.