In the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Morgan County R-II School District officials took a step back and evaluated its own security measures. New safety measures are now planned to limit access to students at its two elementary schools - Versailles Elementary and South Elementary.
"It is personally upsetting to me that as a school district who invites parent involvement we are now in a position to ask parents to limit their interaction. We do however continue to desire to be a partner in the education of your children," Superintendent Dr. Joyce Ryerson stated in a press release. "There are many events that happen throughout history that cause a person to think in terms of life before and life after the event. Some examples of those defining moments would include the assassination of JFK, the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, Columbine High School, 9/11 and most recently, the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. In education, the events that happened at Columbine High School shaped much of how safety procedures were conducted in schools during the late 1990s into 2012. Following the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary, we will no longer be able to look at school safety and think, 'It would never happen to us.'"
In the month since the shooting, Morgan County R-II District administration and the school resource officer have been reviewing the Campus Safety Assessment and have met with local law enforcement officials to consider possible security measures.
Everything from utilizing bulletproof glass and reconfiguring front entrances to allow for locking mechanisms, window tinting, bars or metal work on windows and additional school officers has been considered, according to Ryerson.
The number one issue that continued to jump to the attention of law enforcement, however, was simple — access to the students. With this in mind, the district is seeking to control access to buildings by non-employees, and thus limit access to students, Ryerson said.
The idea shone a light on a potential problem spot at the district's two elementary schools — the hectic time at the beginning and end of each school day when parents drop off and pick up their young ones. During this time, parents often come into the building and walk to and from the classroom with their child.
With student safety the primary concern, that is now going to change.
Beginning Jan. 28, Versailles and South elementary schools will be implementing new drop-off and pick-up procedures.
All parents coming into the building will be asked to stop at the front near the office and allow their student to continue on to class alone.
"This will allow us to know that no one who is a potential problem has direct access to all the children and contains all non-employee activity to the front of the building," she said.
Parents will also no longer be able to pick up their child inside the elementary buildings after 3 p.m. Beginning at 3:25 p.m., the school is asking all parents to pull up in front of the building and the children will be escorted out as their parents arrive.
"Again, this will allow the school to ensure that no one has access to the children except for the parent or guardian. Unfortunately, this will undoubtedly cause some traffic issues in front of the building. We beg your patience as we work through this process to make it more streamlined over the coming weeks," Ryerson said.
In addition to changing access procedures, Versailles Elementary will soon be locked down after the start of the school day. With funding help from the Versailles Parent Teacher Organization, new locking mechanisms and security features are now being installed to make this effect which will allow school officials to control access to the building from their office.
These security features are already in place at the high school and at South Elementary in Gravois Mills.
Parents or guardians with who have additional questions or need clarification regarding the new procedures, are asked to contact Elementary Principal Joni Spalding at 573-378-4272.