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Column: A Look at District 202 Safety One Year after Sandy Hook

New intruder alarms and securities protocols are in place to prevent a mass shooting here, the District 202 superintendent said.

Column: A Look at District 202 Safety One Year after Sandy Hook
John Harper, superintendent of Plainfield School District 202, which includes several schools in Joliet, submitted this column:

On December 14, 2013, an armed intruder entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 students and six adults.

That terrible incident happened in Newtown, Connecticut, but people nationwide shared the pain.

In the wake of that tragedy, schools nationwide including District 202 reviewed and strengthened their security procedures with the safety of their students and staff in mind.

Security and safety have been top priorities in District 202 for many years. Nothing we do is more important than protecting those family members, children and adults alike, who have been entrusted to us.  

Even before Sandy Hook, we worked closely with all of our public safety partners.

Every year we meet with all of the police agencies that serve our district to review and work together to improve our school safety plans. They are the experts, and we rely heavily on them for guidance and support.

Most prominently, this past spring, summer and fall we installed a special intruder alarm system in all of our schools and buildings.

These new systems feature bright, yellow “emergency stations” located in highly visible public spaces throughout the schools.

These alarms are clearly different than the traditional fire alarms so that students and staff know what they are, and can easily reach and use them during an emergency. When activated, they immediately connect with district first responders.

Building administrators also now wear mobile wireless pendants that activate the emergency alarm system from anywhere. As well, wireless desk mounted emergency buttons have been strategically and discreetly located in easy reach of key office personnel.

I encourage parents to look for these new alarms when you’re in any of our schools.

As an added benefit we were also able to save money on this project thanks to the support of our security vendor.

This new system is a great supplement to all of the measures we were already taking to protect our students and staff – locking all external doors, requiring visitors to state their business before entering the school, directing visitors through the main office where possible, etc.

As well, our students do eight safety-related drills a year – some with the participation of local police -- to practice their response to fire, bad weather and intruders.

The sad reality of the world today, is that these kinds of events can and will continue to happen. All we can do is plan, prepare and be ready.

We are blessed with a strong, supportive community, a visionary Board of Education and district staff and administration that are committed to doing everything we can to protect our students and staff.

Our children and families are our greatest gift – this time of the year and always – and we promise that the safety of our students and staff will always be our top priority.

On behalf of the Board of Education and district administration, may you and your family enjoy a safe, peaceful and joyous Christmas and holiday season, and a happy 2014.

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