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G-C board to discuss school safety measures

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GREENFIELD — The Greenfield-Central School Board will meet in executive session next week to discuss measures to tighten security in local schools.

Board members broached the need for a closed-door session to evaluate school safety after the Connecticut school massacre.

The meeting, being held Monday at the corporation’s administration building, is not being called to address any security breach specific to Greenfield-Central, board President Retta Livengood said Wednesday. The incident in Connecticut, however, has caused school administrators everywhere to re-address their policies and confirm everything possible is being done to assure students are safe when they come to school, she said.

“It just begs the question for all of us to re-examine what we’re doing,” she said. “Could it use some tweaking? We are certainly all about security for our kids once they are in our school buildings.”

Livengood said she’s heard a number of suggestions from members of the community as they consider some of the precautions being taken elsewhere in the country.

“There’s just a far range of those things that people are, I think, kind of reacting to,” she said. “It’s just really looking at policies and guidelines and saying, realistically, what should we be doing? And some of it will come down to the very hard fact of what can we afford to do.”

The closed-door meeting will allow board members to brainstorm ideas and discuss any potential safety concerns without broadcasting any of the school’s weak points or safety strategies, board member Ray Kerkhof said.

“When you start talking about security, you’re talking about different things that the school has taken measures to do that you don’t want to advertise,” he said.

Still, he hopes the public will weigh in – either to administrators or the board – about any potential gaps in security that the board should be discussing.

“If we find out that there’s some things that maybe we really need to do or that we can do better, they may be discussed at the meeting,” he said. “We may just sit on it for a while and think about it and maybe brainstorm some more. We want people to know that we are thinking of this, and it’s kind of an ongoing process.”

Livengood asked the public to be understanding as the board weighs not only what is in the best interest of students and staff but also what is fiscally responsible.

Some suggestions are unreasonable in terms of cost, she said, but the board will evaluate any sensible suggestions to make schools a safer place to learn.

Board member Steve Menser echoed Livengood’s sentiments. Menser said he is encouraged by the state Legislature, which appears on the verge of approving state funding to bolster security.

“That’s good, and that could be used for various resources, whether it be police officers or whatever it may be,” he said.

Board member Dan Leary said he plans to bring specific concerns parents have shared with him to the meeting. Some suggestions are more feasible than others, and Leary attributes that to a knee-jerk reaction to the Connecticut shootings.

“I’ve had one person contact me and describe what they think needs to be done in each one of our school buildings, and … I would have thought this person worked in a penitentiary,” he said. “I think we’ve become a nation of knee-jerk reactions, unfortunately. Now, has that saved some people and protected some people? It probably has.”

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