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Police officers increase presence at schools

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CANTON — Prompted by the Newtown, Conn. shooting spree, St. Lawrence County police agencies have increased their presence at area public school districts.

Some districts, including Canton Central and others, are considering providing separate office space for police officers that would be equipped with a telephone and space for a computer.

During a Jan. 9 meeting, superintendents from the county’s public school districts met with County Sheriff Kevin M. Wells, state police Capt. Michael Girard and other law enforcement representatives.

Follow-up meetings will be planned through St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services which is composed of 17 districts in St. Lawrence County and Harrisville Central is Lewis County.

“We’re trying to keep a regular dialogue with school administrators based on the level of contact they want,” Sheriff Wells said.

The first session focused on school safety and emergency response procedures following the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and six adults dead.

Sheriff Wells said some districts are satisfied with patrol cars making regular sweeps through parking lots, while other want officers to routinely walk through all of their buildings.

“Some schools want a higher level of presence than others,” Mr. Wells said.

Deputies are equipped with maps that show the interior layout of school buildings in their road patrol area.

Capt. Girard said while state police were already patrolling high schools in their patrol area,he has instructed them to expand their presence to all school buildings.

“I have personally instructed the members under my command to make daily visits at the schools within his or her patrol area, including high schools, junior high schools and elementary schools,” he said.

Capt. Girard, an Ogdensburg native, is Zone 2 commander for state police Troop B.

In the past, several school districts had Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) officers or school resource officers who regularly interacted with students. Budget cuts forced those positions to be eliminated, Mr. Girard said.

Stephen J. Todd, BOCES assistant superintendent for instruction, said school districts are in the process of evaluating their safety plans and looking for ways to make improvements. Some districts have started to lock classroom doors while students are in class.

Referring to her district, Hermon-DeKalb Superintendent Ann M. Adams said, “The doors can stay open, but the teachers are putting the lock in place so all they have to do is shut the door if there is an emergency.” Districts will also have the opportunity to host training drills for law enforcement agencies.

“People are being more diligent,” Ms. Adams said. “I feel we are well prepared.”

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