After Newtown, Tiverton To Hold School Safety Meeting On Thursday
Tiverton school administrators will sit down with parents on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the high school library and talk safety.
School administrators across Newport County and the country are reevaluating building security and evacuation plans in the wake of the Newtown elementary school shooting last week. On Monday, teachers grappled with student's questions and the state Department of Education (RIDE) circulated reminders to districts throughout the state reminding schools to take safety seriously and comply with RIDE's mandates emergency drills and plans.
According to Supt. William Rearick, Tiverton's emergency plans are updated with local public safety officials annually and deal with everything from prevention to evacuation to how to best answer fragile questions from inquiring students.
"Unfortunately we have had incidents where we have lost staff members, students, people who are part of the school community, so our strategy for dealing with tragedy has developed over time," said Rearick, explaining that the district's crisis management planning began in 1999 after the Columbine shooting.
On Monday morning, Rearick met with teachers to discuss their concerns on safety and how to deal with students questions.
"Depending on the age group we talk differently about the situation, we let them bring it up and we always try to assure kids that schools are safe," Rearick said.
In Tiverton, school doors lock with the morning bell and don't unlock until dismissal. Visitors are buzzed in at the front door only after speaking with a secretary and according to Supt. William Rearick, if the person isn't recognized or scheduled to visit, an administrator is called.
Two years ago a school resource officer - a trained and armed member of the police department - patrolled the hallways of Tiverton's five schools daily. But then the federal grant ran out, the economy bottomed out and Tiverton Schools had to cut the position. This year, a resource officer returned but only for one day per week.
Rearick recognized the financial difficulties plaguing school funding and hoped that President Obama was serious in his proclamation to protect schools against similar tragedies.
"It needs to be a multi-pronged approach," Rearick said. "Hopefully the [federal] government will be able to provide communities with some additional funding for security and things of that nature."
Rearick said another key area would be investing in mental health resources for students and adults in schools and in the community at large.
"We walk a fine line because we are a public school, not a prison, and these are conversations that I think every community needs to have," said Rearick. "What do we want our schools to be? We need to talk about what happened in Connecticut in relation to what we do here."
Monday did not see any dip in attendance for Tiverton students, a fact that Rearick said boasted confidence in Tiverton's existing security measures.
"Because we are schools, we are limited," said Rearick. "And I think we are maximizing the level of security we can provide."
Rearick said Thursday's meeting will be an opportunity for parents to voice concerns and ask questions, but more than that Rearick hopes it will begin a conversation of what Tiverton wants its schools, students and community to look like in coming years.
The Tiverton School Committee will hold its special meeting on Thursday, Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. in the Tiverton High School library, located at 100 North Brayton Road.