In the wake of today's tragic mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, CT, many local parents reflect on their own school environments and wonder how to protect children and teachers from similar incidents.
Belmont-Redwood Shores School District board president Robert Tashjian says that safety is an ongoing priority throughout the district--not just by physically installing Columbine locks on doors, but also by ongoing reviews of safety plans and drills that simulate school lock-downs.
And even though the school districts are separated by thousands of miles, the tragedy is felt everywhere.
"Our hearts go out to the families in Newtown, Connecticut," said Tashjian, who took over as school board president one week ago.
"It's especially diffiult for those with small children. It's hard to imagine the horror, grief and shock those families must be experiencing."
Tashjian says that it's at times like these that the district is grateful for the 2010 tax bond that has allowed the school facilities to rebuilt and updated.
"Some of that updating includes the installation of Columbine locks, which are in the schools that were updated this year, and will be installed in all the other schools this coming summer" Tashjian said.
In addition, Tashjian said schools have special shades on classroom windows that help protect schools in times of emergency.
During the construction projects at the school sites over the past year, Tashjian said the plans were carefully laid out with the architects, engineers and contractors to keep points of access to the schools at a minimum.
School principals undergo an annual review of school safety plans, including lockdown drills in coordination and school officials meet regularly with the City of Belmont, including the Belmont Police Department to review the Safe Schools Program.
Earlier today, told Belmont Patch that the Newton incident prompted his department's School Resource Officer to quickly collect information and resources for Belmont school leaders.
The websites (below) can be used by parents and teachers to prepare for discussions with students. DeSmidt also said he has arranged for extra patrols around school campuses so parents and students felt supported.