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(Updated) Chief: "We Work on School Security Very Diligently"

Police have been visiting schools to put youngsters at ease.

Updated: Dec. 18, 9:02 a.m.

Vernon went back to school on Monday - for the first time after the tragic shootings at a Newtown elementary school.

Flags were at half-staff when the students walked into their classrooms at Center Road School as administrators were just a little more picky as to who came in and out.

Meanwhile, Mayor George Apel, police and education officials were meeting to discuss their level of security. A police officer came to visit the school - and every other in town.

Here's what Superintendent of Schools Mary Conway said was the result.

"I would like to reassure you that we are doing everything that we can we can to keep our schools in Vernon safe," she said.

Conway said several measures will be implemented immediately, including:

• Extra security at schools whose office are not visible from the main entrance - Rockville High School, Skinner Road School and Northeast School. At Rockville High School, visitors were greeted by a smiling but firm staff member who checked identification - even from those she knew - at a table just inside the foyer.

• A thorough review of the lockdown process.

• Locked classroom doors.

• A continued good working relationship with Vernon police.

The full text of Monday's letter Conway sent home to parents is attached.

Police Chief James Kenny said he is happy with a plan that is in place, but was quick to add that, "we can always get better."

Kenny said an officer is always just a short ride away if anything suspicious develops.

"Just call the police," was his message to the community. "Call the police if anyone has any concerns about potential threats against the schools."

He said potential threats could not only translate to criminal activity, but unruly visitors - even parents.

"We take security very seriously," he said. "If problems arise, we will respond."

Kenny said the type of response has changed drastically based on the past several incidents.

"It used to be we rushed to the scene and set up a perimeter," he said.

Now that has all changed.

"There is no perimeter if you look at the past few cases. Now we have to get inside buildings," he said.

In addition to medical kits and shotguns, cruiser trunks are equipped with a battering ram for forced entry into a building, he said.

"We train for active shooter situations," Kenny said.

But it will intensify.

"We want to ensure the safety of our students," he said. "The attacks in Newtown struck at our very core - children. Situations with children are the ones that give us the most angst. We work on school security very diligently."

In a letter to parents sent home in backpacks on Monday, one teacher said that passion translates to the classroom.

"I want to assure you, as much as possible, that I am here for your children," the teacher wrote. "I will continue to make them feel loved and safe while here in school …

"After this very emotional weekend, we are all raw and full of emotion. My goal was to have our day as normal as possible, answer every question, stressing our preventions, and give your children a sense of being in a safe place. I hope this has happened. Try to be a little less fearful (which I know is difficult to do right now). I take my responsibility my little ones very seriously and the town of Vernon has been very proactive in training staff on what to do."

Fast-forward to Tuesday morning. At Center Road, a uniformed officer was on the sidewalk, greeting students as they reported for classes.

Many smiled and exchanged hellos. Others were inquisitive. The general answer was the police just wanted everyone to have a good day.

The students seemed to not only accept that answer, but it put a smile on many of their faces as they walked in. No one dared surmise that the healing process had begun, but the atmosphere was certainly more at ease than the day before.

Lisa McCarthy December 18, 2012 at 01:14 PM
I have an idea fro security, how about turning the lights on outside Rockville High. Yesterday when I dropped my child off to wait for her bus the only lights on were inside the school. :(
Chris Dehnel (Editor) December 18, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Lisa, town officials saw your comment and are telling me the lights will now be turned on.

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