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Massena Central School District looks at safety initiatives in schools

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MASSENA - The Massena Central School District’s Safety Committee recently held two tabletop exercises at Jefferson Elementary and Massena High School to discuss how staff would react in case of an emergency at one of the district’s five schools.

But, according to William L. Seguin, the district’s director of operations and the new chairman of the of the committee, there’s much more going on behind the scenes to ensure the safety of students and staff.

“We’ve upgraded all of our radios. We put a PA system out on the playground,” Mr. Seguin said, noting the PA system could be used in case of emergencies when students and staff are outside.

They’re also planning to put reflective numbers on the outside of individual windows, as well as entrances and exterior doors. Rescue personnel can then respond directly to that number instead of needing to find a specific room number, he said.

In addition, Interim Superintendent William W. Crist said, first responders have been given a copy of the floor plans for the schools.

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes in terms of preparing for any real-world emergency, according to Mr. Seguin, who said he serves as the mediator for the group to “make sure everything goes right.”

“We’ve been practicing tabletop exercises and lockdowns,” he said.

Tabletop exercises unite school and community personnel in one setting to go over various potential scenarios and discuss how they should be handled.

The school personnel include principals, dean of students, school psychologist, head nurse, guidance counselor and representatives from operations, technology, athletics and the student body.

Outside agencies that are involved with the committee include the Massena Village Police Department, Massena Volunteer Fire Department, Massena Volunteer Rescue Squad, Massena village Department of Public Works and New York State Police.

“The district clerk and superintendent get all the minutes. They know what’s going on,” and are welcome to attend the meetings, Mr. Seguin said.

He said Duane Richards, Jefferson Elementary School principal and past chairman of the Safety Committee, is working on a schedule for evacuations, lockdown and lockout drills.

“We just did a high school tabletop and Jefferson tabletop. Our thought is we have two new principals, Amy (Hornung, Nightengale Elementary) and Burt (Peck, J.W. Leary Junior High). We did two so they could see how one goes,” Mr. Seguin said.

In addition to the overall work of the Safety Committee, a subcommittee is currently reviewing “flip books,” binders that are located throughout the district with instructions on how to handle different emergencies. He said, based on what they’ve learned during their exercises, they can change the flip books as necessary.

“Each building is updating their flip books,” he said.

“It’s a living document that changes with the times,” Mr. Crist added.

Mr. Seguin said he is also coordinating with the New York State Police to hold an active shooter drill in the district, “maybe as a staff development day because teachers would like to be a part of it.”

He took over as chairman in December, following in the footsteps of Mr. Richards and, before him, Richard Norris.

“We’ve had an active Safety Committee for five-plus years,” Mr. Seguin said.

Mr. Crist said because of Mr. Seguin’s responsibilities with the district’s facilities it made sense for him to take over as chairman.

“He has really done a nice job,” he said.

Mr. Seguin said he appreciated the efforts of everyone on the committee.

“It is a great group of very concerned citizens. Everyone has ownership,” he said.

Since Mr. Seguin took over, the Safety Committee has had three meetings to go over safety plans in buildings.

“We discussed what’s going on and some of the challenges and concerns. With everything in the news, the Massena Central School District is doing everything they possibly can,” Mr. Seguin said.

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