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Student safety on minds of local officials

Madison Mathews • Dec 17, 2012 at 10:10 PM

Student safety is on the minds of local school officials in the wake of the Connecticut elementary school shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead.

While the events that took place Friday in Newtown, Conn., didn’t seem to affect student attendance in Johnson City or Washington County schools Monday, officials were prepared to deal with questions regarding student safety.

“Anytime you’re dealing with a tragedy of this nature, you have to be cautious about raising the anxiety level of children, so we have a lot of professionals that do an exceptional job of diffusing and calming children,” Washington County Director of Schools Ron Dykes said. “Our main goal is to, of course, attempt to ensure them that school is a safe place to be although the world itself may not always be.”

Officials with Johnson City Schools also stressed the fact that its schools were taking every precaution to ensure the safety of students.

“We are very sensitive to concerns that may be out there in the community because of the tragedy that did occur this past Friday. I do know that our schools are very much aware of safety issues and that there have been some additional precautions that have been taken,” said Robbie Anderson, Johnson City Schools director of accountability and school improvement.

Both Johnson City and Washington County schools had counselors at the ready for children who wanted to talk about last week’s shooting. The systems also had increased law enforcement presence on school grounds.

School officials are continuously reviewing comprehensive safety plans and instructions about what must be done if an incident occurs.

In Washington County, Dykes said staff and administrators will be practicing lockdown procedures as the year progresses.

“We never want to become complacent. We want to always be aware of the potential and it really begins with the individual who is monitoring cameras, monitoring the individuals as they approach any doors and then the additional security we have in place,” he said.

Anderson said Johnson City’s comprehensive safety plan was recently reviewed, as required by the state, and the system is doing everything it can to provide additional resources to ensure safety.

“We have made sure that we have additional resources available to our school community and if people need those services, we are making sure that we are re-examining school plans and we have additional police officers in the area,” she said.

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