School Safety a Priority for West Morris, Local Districts
In the wake of the shooting in Connecticut, administrators in Mendham, Chester and the West Morris Regional District assure parents of readiness, openness and support.
Friday's shocking school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., stunned the nation as 20-year-old Adam Lanza took the lives of 27 people, including his own mother.
The shockwaves were felt in our local schools, as parents reached out with concerns about the safety of their children and officials answered.
"We have received a great many inquiries in the schools regarding safety plans for the Chester Schools. I can only reassure you that we have detailed safety plans in place that are practiced on a regular basis in the Chester School District," Chester Superintendent Christina VanWoert wrote in a statement to parents. "In fact, several members of our Administrative Team attended a School Safety Meeting earlier this week with the Morris County Prosecutor's Office. In addition, our district was one of only six throughout the county to voluntarily undergo a safety audit with the Morris County Office of Emergency Management and the Prosecutor's Office to help us further strengthen our safety preparations and protocols at the recommendation of law enforcement officials."
According VanWoert, the police will be continuing their Police in the Schools plan as usual, but also patrolling the schools with greater emphasis this week, especially at opening and dismissal times. This will include officers in cars at the front of the schools when the buses are loading and unloading and walk-throughs at lunchtime.
"We want to strike the proper balance of not alarming our children, but being cognizant of how unnerved many of our parents and staff members are at this time," VanWoert said. "The police, in this appropriate and balanced manner, can only help us all during this time."
VanWoert said the goal is for students to have as normal a day as possible, but there will be assistance from Dr. Sarah Southwick and Dr. Melissa Scherzer, Chester School Psychologists, who will be meeting with faculty Monday morning to share advice and guidance.
"We will also have our guidance counselors Michele Lakefield (Dickerson), Karen Andolina (Bragg) and Elizabeth Grasso (BRMS) on hand to assist students and teachers as well," VanWoert said.
Sal Constantino, the Superintendent in Mendham Township also sent a message to parents about the "unthinkable tragedy" and "senseless act of violence in Connecticut."
"Here in Mendham Township, we have consulted with our Police Department on our emergency plans and we remain vigilant, as the safety and security of your children is paramount," Constantino said. "Should you have any questions or concerns regarding speaking to your child or you would like our help in any way, please feel free to contact us at any time."
Mackey Pendergrast, superintendent of the West Morris Regional School District said that both of Mendham and Central High School have a comprehensive plan with local police departments in Mendham Borough and Washington Township.
"Our schools have specific practices for a variety of different security situations and all faculty and students participate in these drills throughout the school year," Pendergrast said. "Although these tragic situations are complex, we continue to take steps to re-examine our plan and practices in order to provide the safest possible environment for our students."