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School Officials Reaffirm Safety Measures in Wake of Newtown Shooting

Braintree schools remain on heightened alert nearly a month out from the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.

As students and teachers from Sandy Hook Elementary have begun to settle into their new school, a few miles south of the site of the Dec. 14 shooting that claimed the lives of 20 first-graders and six educators, districts across the country continue to look at how they can improve school safety.

In Braintree, one immediate action was to shift police resources already available so that each elementary school began receiving unannounced visits from officers, who instead of driving through the property or stopping in the driveway now park and walk through the schools.

That shift, along with the locked doors and buzz-in system at every Braintree school put in place after Columbine, gives Mayor Joseph Sullivan confidence that the perimeters of the town's schools are as secure as reasonably possible.

"We feel comfortable that our schools are safe," Sullivan said during the School Committee meeting earlier this week. "We do need to stay actively engaged and vigilant."

Part of that effort takes place every day in the office of each school. Staff assigned to the buzz-in system are taking more time with each visitor and asking more questions, Superintendent Dr. Peter Kurzberg said.

Prior to Newtown, the school and public safety departments had worked up crisis plans outlining various scenarios. Along with fire drills, students also participate from time to time in drills that may include different types of evacuations, or even staying in place, depending on the hypothetical threat.

The district will examine in-school safety plans more aggressively following Newtown, Sullivan said, such as replacing locks on classroom doors.

In a letter to parents sent after the tragedy, Dr. Kurzberg provided the following link to the National Association of School Psychologists website, which offers resources to help you have conversations with children:  http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/talkingviolence.pdf.

Also, the Braintree Fire Department is selling stickers to raise money for victims of the Newtown shooting. More information can be found here: http://braintree.patch.com/articles/braintree-firefighters-sell-stickers-to-support-those-affected-by-newtown-tragedy.

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