Tupper Lake schools focus on security

TUPPER LAKE – Locking the doors, limiting visitor access and planning school intruder drills are some of the increased security measures Tupper Lake school officials have implemented in the wake of the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

In a presentation to the district’s Board of Education Monday night, Superintendent Seth McGowan said most of the measures aren’t necessarily new, “but it’s given us an opportunity to tighten things up.

“I know the school in Newtown had many of the same precautions and procedures because they’re standard procedures,” McGowan said, “but as I said to the staff in an email, when crazy comes to your door, there’s not always a plan for that, and the best we can do is the most we can do. Unless we build a fortress around our schools, there’s no prevention to that happening.”

McGowan outlined the following security precautions:

Doors at both L.P. Quinn Elementary and the middle/high school are being locked more frequently.

Guests are being screened via video cameras when the doors are locked. They have to be buzzed into the building.

Visitor access is being limited, especially at the elementary school.

Perimeter security systems on building doors will be enabled.

Security cameras are being checked regularly to make sure they’re working properly.

School officials are working to provide state police with access to the school’s security cameras.

The district’s safety plan will be reviewed Thursday with police, fire, rescue and other law-enforcement personnel and first responders.

Practice drills for intruders will be scheduled in each building.

McGowan also said he’s invited village and state police to conduct an intruder drill inside one of the district’s buildings at a time when school is not in session.

“I feel like we’re doing as much as we can,” he said. “I think that regular staff and faculty training is necessary and probably a little bit past due at this point, so we’re going to take care of that. It will become part of our annual drills.”

Board Vice President Jane Whitmore thanked L.P. Quinn Principal Carolyn Merrihew for sending a letter home to parents following the Newtown shooting. Whitmore also thanked McGowan for sending a phone message home the day before children returned to school after the shooting, assuring parents that safety is a top priority. The message was sent out via the district’s emergency calling system.