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Police Step Up Presence at Southington Schools in the Wake of Tragedy

There were no concerns of threat or copycat behavior Monday as children returned to class in Southington, but police and school officials said changes have been made to provide peace of mind.

In the wake of one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, local officials have stepped up police presence and security measures at Southington schools in an effort to provide peace of mind to parents and students.

Police could be found at each of Southington’s public schools Monday morning, as well as patrolling around the schools, in an effort to make sure parents were comfortable in allowing their children to go to class.

“Following the shooting on Friday, (Southington Police Department) staff met with school administration and we agreed it was in the best interest for our community to make a police presence felt,” Sgt. Jeffrey Dobratz said Monday.

School safety has remained the top priority, police and school officials said, but both were clear in stating there was no reason to be alarmed.

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For Southington schools, protecting the students is not a new concept. The district already requires that all doors be locked once school is in session and any visitors must be buzzed in through the main entrance to the school only. In these situations, school office staff request visitors state their name and reason for visiting before buzzing anyone in and visitors must then “check in” with the main office.

A full-time school resource officer is always stationed at Southington High School and has been for years now. The officer remains at the school throughout the day.

On Monday, however, many of the schools went as far as placing an individual by the main entrance as an added safeguard. Schools including the Derynoski Elementary School and Southington High School were already doing this prior to Friday’s school shooting in Newtown.

School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. said during a town meeting that drew several hundred parents on Sunday night that safety will always be the top priority, but it is also important to return to normalcy as quickly as possible.

For now, however, police will be putting an added emphasis on making their presence felt as well, according to Dobratz.

“Today we had area cars patrol directly around the schools, especially during drop off and pick-up times,” Dobratz said. “In addition, we’ve reassigned three members of our traffic division and members of our command staff to walk within the schools. The response has been extremely positive and we’ve had a lot of parents thanks us.”

Elissa Mange, a mother of a second-grade student at Hatton Elementary School, told the Record-Journal Sunday night that she has been impressed with the efforts the town has made:

“They tended to our questions and they were very supportive,” Mange said.

The patrols will continue for the immediate future, Dobratz said, and both police and school administrators will sit in a few weeks to discuss how the effort is working and any changes for the long-term.

But for now, he said, the main focus is simply on providing peace of mind.

“Parents understandably want to know their children are going to be safe and it is our job to make sure they know their children are looked after.”

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AP December 18, 2012 at 09:42 PM
There was a meeting Sunday evening? Did the Southington Patch publicize this event?

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