In the year since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six staff members were killed, school officials in Franklin Square and Elmont have increased security and say they are taking a more cautious approach to visitors. All three superintendents of the local school districts — Franklin Square, Elmont and Sewanhaka — told the Herald that in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, there is now a much greater focus on safety in the schools.
Patrick Manley, superintendent of the Franklin Square School District — comprising the Washington Street, Polk Street and John Street Schools — said that district officials began planning new safety measures six months before the Connecticut shooting. In the summer of 2012, Manley said, they began working with the Morelly Center for Homeland Security, in Bethpage, and the first installation of new measures, ironically, took place last Dec. 13 — the day before the shooting.
The tragedy, he added, prompted the schools’ strategic partners to devise an even stronger security plan. “Once information from Newtown was available,” Manley said, “our partners reviewed our safety plans and provided specific recommendations to make our schools more secure.”
The measures included additional security cameras outside each of the district’s schools, and revamped procedures for entering each building, he said. Manley said he did not want to go into detail because doing so might compromise their effectiveness. “Our partners cautioned us about divulging too much information regarding our improvements and plans,” he said, “since privacy is an important component of a secure environment.”
Al Harper, superintendent of the Elmont School District — made up of the Gotham Avenue, Dutch Broadway, Covert Avenue, Stewart Manor, Alden Terrace and Clara H. Carlson schools — said that officials are taking a more cautious approach after school and on weekends.
“We have increased our vigilance with parents and visitors to our schools,” Harper said. “We ID everyone. We have a teacher aide or security guard at every door of each school, and that’s the case after school as well. Doors are guarded during after-school school activities, and we have cars patrolling around the school between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Saturdays for activities held that day.”
Harper said that there are also districtwide safety meetings for students’ parents and other residents. “We have the Nassau County Police Department, Nassau BOCES, parents and administration [at the meetings] as well,” he said.
Security in the Sewanhaka Central High School District — Elmont Memorial, H. Frank Carey, Sewanhaka, Floral Park Memorial and New Hyde Park Memorial schools — has also been updated. Superintendent Dr. Ralph Ferrie said that every door of every school either remains locked or is monitored by a security guard, and that there are plans for additional security cameras. Those cameras, Ferrie said, were critical components of the $99.5 million bond proposal that was defeated on Dec. 4, but, he added, district officials would continue exploring ways to add those cameras.
“The district is in the process of making every attempt to increase the number or surveillance cameras at each of the buildings,” Ferrie said. “In addition, each school located a security station at one entrance in order to monitor visitors while also monitoring the cameras. Additional security cameras were included in the proposed referendum. As a result of the outcome, other potential ways to finance this equipment will be continually explored in the future.”