CORNER BROOK — Last Friday the unimaginable happened when a man walked into a school in Connecticut and shot and killed 26 people. Twenty of them were children, just six and seven years old.
When news of the shooting became known, Eugene May said everybody was devastated.
“I just can’t imagine it being a parent, or being a teacher or working in that situation,” said May, the education officer for student support services with the Western School District. “It’s totally unreal.”
He said when incidents like that happen it causes the board to think about what it does.
“You go through it in your mind and you talk about it, what if that happens here,” said May.
“Bad things can happen and we have to do our best to be prepared to prevent what we can.”
May said the district has a number of measures in place to protect the security of its schools.
The first, is that every school must have a lockdown protocol that is based on a districtwide protocol and adapted to meet each school’s needs. Two to four times a year, the schools are required to do a full run through of the protocol to ensure it is prepared to react to any threat inside or outside the school.
Just recently, Canon Richards Memorial Academy in Flower’s Cove went into full lockdown mode after a woman alerted the local detachment of Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the school that her husband, who was not welcome at the school, was headed there.
The second measure of locking entrances was also implement about four years ago, around the same time as the lockdown protocols.
May said at that time schools were instructed to lock all entrances once classes are in session. He said the aim was to have only one access point to the buildings and where possible that would involve controlled access.
In some schools, like C.C. Loughlin Elementary in Corner Brook, this has resulted in buzzer systems being put in place. People can still enter the main doors, but then have to ring a buzzer and request permission to enter the school. In other schools signs are posted instructing all visitors to check in at the office before proceeding.
May said all of the boards new and refurbished buildings are equipped with controlled access. In some areas in addition to buzzers, a window is placed near the receptionist’s desk to enable monitoring of the entrance.
Some schools have also been equipped with cameras to monitor entrances. Depending on the needs of the building, full security systems can be installed, as is the case at Corner Brook Regional High and Presentation Junior High. May said these cameras can be monitored live or the video can viewed when necessary.
New constructions and some retrofits, including the French Shore Academy in Port Saunders and Bayside Academy in Port Hope Simpson, also have intruder locksets that are keyed on both sides installed in classrooms.
“So that teachers can lock their classroom doors from inside the classroom.”
The board also has a policy in place when in comes to visitors. May said other than staff, no adult is allowed access to students in the buildings.
“Anybody coming into our building would have to check in at the office and if they haven’t got a reason to be in the building they wouldn’t be allowed to proceed into the building,” May said.
May said some parents have questioned this practice, but when explained and questioned if they would want strangers having access to their children, they tend to understand the need.