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School board considers new security measures

GREENFIELD — The Greenfield School Committee may soon begin working with local and state police to ramp up the schools’ security.

During a presentation at the committee’s meeting Wednesday, State Police Lt. Andrew Bzdel said that trainings can begin immediately at no cost to the town. There are four main areas state police would focus on with school officials: “enhanced lockdown” drills, an explanation of “active shooter” procedures, technological improvements to security and helping students feel comfortable reporting a potential threat.

In the wake of school shootings, like the one that occurred at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school last December, state police are traveling all over the state to promote enhanced school security, said Bzdel.

Lockdown drills — which may include hiding in a closet, barricading doors or evacuating out of windows — are less about tricking an armed intruder and more about buying time for police to come and enter the building, he said.

Police response has also changed, said Bzdel. While officers used to surround the building and wait outside, they will now enter immediately upon arriving on the scene, he said.

Just as schools are full of equipment that can keep students safe from a fire, enhancements can be made to protect against school shooters, said Bzdel.

Some changes — like making sure every door has a lock and that a window panel on the door is on the hinge side and not the knob side — can deter an armed intruder, he said. Ramping up police presence on the property, even in the form of random drive-throughs by local police, is also effective.

“I don’t want to turn your school into a fortress. I want it to be inviting,” he said. “(But) we can make your kids safer.”

Bzdel said that school officials would also have to begin implementing a program that would allow students to report a threat without fear of retribution from their classmates, he said.

State police would come in multiple times each year to have training sessions and help out with drills in the schools, he told the committee.

Committee members expressed interest in the plan, and said they would follow up through the Greenfield Police Department.

Local school and police officials are trying to work out an arrangement for a Greenfield police officer to serve as a school resource officer this year. The position had been cut in recent years, but there is money in the budget for it this time around.

Superintendent Susan Hollins said that the department published a guide last year that outlined the different protocols that should be taken in response to different scenarios. The committee asked Hollins to review it and present an updated version in October.

She’ll also be working with a policy subcommittee to outline how the superintendent should respond to emergency situations and what the chain of command should be if the superintendent is not there.

The “Health, Safety, Security and Facilities Subcommittee,” led by Maryelen Calderwood, will be tackling safety and security issues throughout the year.

Some committee members have asked for more clarity on the proper protocols following a few incidents that occurred last year — including a mental health patient who walked into the Greenfield Middle School one morning and a townwide search of two elementary school children who wandered away from their school.

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