In the aftermath of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the New Paltz Central School District, in collaboration with the New Paltz Police Department, proposed a new procedure and safety infrastructure to be implemented within schools in the area.
“The district has reviewed its safety precautions and determined that the ‘Safety Plan’ in place is effective and our protocols appropriate,” Superintendent of Schools Maria Rice said in a letter to parents and guardians. “However, we realize there is more we can do to provide greater security in our buildings.”
Rice said the security plans are responses to parental and community recommendations received through emails, phone calls, three law enforcement agencies, meetings with administrators and the district safety coordinator – as well as the information acquired at the School Safety Forum, a public meeting held on Jan. 7.
Safety procedures include locked buildings during the school day, required identification of visitors and greater police presence in schools through random visits and walk-throughs from uniformed New Paltz Police Department officers, deputies from the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department and New York State Troopers.
“We believe this will benefit our students by building enriched relationships between students and law enforcement, as well as deterring possible intruders,” Rice said in the letter.
Future infrastructure changes the district hopes to make are the implementation of a buzzer system entry, installation of panic buttons in each facility, changing classroom door hardware and placing cameras around school property. According to Rice, these projects could possibly be incorporated into a capital project bond vote.
New Paltz Chief of Police Joseph Snyder said these are all great ideas for improving the safety of school environments.
“Working on a buzz system for entry to the schools are a great idea as well as video cameras in the parking lots and entrance ways,” Snyder said. “The Ulster County Chiefs Association created a committee that is working with the school districts to continue working on safety measures.”
Snyder said the police department and district are now working with the state and county police departments to set up foot patrols during the school day. He said the use of unmarked cars may also be used to discourage a perpetrator.
According to Rice, schools will have unannounced lockdown drills in the near future. She also said the Sheriff’s Department encourages everyone to sign up for law enforcement notifications to their cell phones to minimize rumors and misinformation. The notifications also announce when districts are performing unannounced lockdown drills.
“We take your children’s safety seriously and will endeavor to do whatever we can to strengthen our security protocols and systems,” Rice’s letter said.
Parents/guardians and community members can visit www.nixle.com for more information on law enforcement alerts.