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School security procedures being tweaked in Falmouth

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School security procedures being tweaked in Falmouth

FALMOUTH — The School Department and police are working to improve security in the wake of last month's shootings in Newtown, Conn.

Police Chief Ed Tolan and Superintendent of Schools Barbara Powers said they feel the schools are very safe, but there area always things that can be done to improve student safety.

“I think we have been doing as good a job as anybody on securing our schools,” Tolan said. “The School Department and the Police and Fire departments were working on (safety procedures) well before Newtown. We have a good environment, but unfortunately you can never be 100 percent sure; if someone is willing to commit a heinous act and give up their life, you can't control it.”

According to Powers, immediately after the shooting in Newtown, school officials met with police and fire officials to review safety procedures and identify areas for improvement. Several upgrades have already been made and more are on the way.

Most doors into each of the schools in the district are protected by keyless entry and are locked at all times after students enter, she said. An upgrade is planned to the doors not currently equipped with keyless entry.

A second upgrade at the middle school and high school will further secure the front doors. After the upgrade, visitors to the schools will have to be buzzed in through the front entrance, just like the current system at the elementary school.

Additionally, each teacher and staff member was asked to review their emergency procedures and Powers said that training exercises will be conducted with the teachers.

The Police Department has also added the school campus to its regular patrol routes.

“We have the officers now stop at the schools and the guys who are on patrol park out in front and go in and can go in and walk around, have lunch with the kids,” Tolan said. “Some people might ask why we are doing this, but it gives a presence of an officer being there at random times. The point is that you just don't know when there will be an (additional) officer at the school.”

Bob Soucy, the school resource officer since 1997, will also be attending an active-shooter training in Texas in March.

“Every time one of these incidents happen, everyone looks at their procedures,” Tolan said. “We need school resource officers to respond immediately and not wait for backup and we feel it is very important for Bob to have all the training he can.”

Tolan would not provide details about particular safety procedures, but he said that drills in the schools have provided officers with the training they need. He said that Officer Kurt Fegan trains with the county tactical response team and they do drills in local schools in the evenings or at times when students are not present.

Both Tolan and Powers said that there were not major safety concerns that needed to be overhauled, but that reviewing saftey procedures in the wake of the recent school shootings is absolutely necessary.

“We've had a good program over the years, but any time you have an incident you have to meet and review your procedures and see if we can learn anything,” the police chief said. “Nothing major (needed to be changed), only small things came out (in our review).”

Amber Cronin can be reached at acronin@theforecaster.net or 781-3661 ext. 125. Follow her on Twitter @croninamber.