For Needham, safety in schools seems to be a focus for several town departments.
The Board of Selectmen met with Needham's chiefs of police and fire and the superintendent of schools at Tuesday night's meeting to discuss school safety and the best practices in place around the town.
School officials regularly meet with police, fire and public safety officials to discuss school safety, check in and review protocols, School Superintendent Dan Gutekanst said. Lockdown and fire drills are also regular practices within schools.
"We certainly did this after Sandy Hook as well, but it’s been a long-standing practice." Gutekanst explained, "it’s routine."
Needham Fire Chief Paul Buckley added that fire drills are mandated for the fire department, but police officers often participate and provide feedback--and vice-versa.
With apparent pleasure, Selectman Matt Borrelli noted some amazement at the drills his second grade daughter told him about. He also said that he received a number of calls from the schools, as a parent, informing him on the school system's response to the Sandy Hook shooting.
In addition to drills, Police Chief Phil Droney explained that all of the schools have emergency plans, including blueprints, contact information for staff and faculty, and traffic diversion plans if needed. These plans are not public information.
The police and fire department preparations are only part of what Superintendent Gutekanst calls "wraparound" services, which he believes is a key factor
Said Gutenkanst, "I think Needham is wise, and ahead in many ways."
He explained that, in addition to the police and fire programs the town has, the school community has programs like substance abuse education and suicide prevention.
"All of these make sure parents and students have a place, and know they can go somewhere." Gutenkast added. "[police and fire] are reactive, but you're also very preventative."
The Superintendent also said that new buzzers and security doors are coming to some school buildings to make them more secure. The Pollard School is also receiving a phone system upgrade, and radios at the High School will keep communication open if phones are disabled.
During construction at Newman Elementary, school officials submitted over 500 CORI checks for workers--and spoke to some of the construction workers who raised concerns. Workers were also required to wear identification badges when on school grounds.
"We do think about it: we can’t guarantee safety when someone walks into a school," said Gutenkanst.