ROCKLAND, Maine — Increased security was a common theme Tuesday night at a forum on how to make local schools safer.
The more than two dozen people who turned out for the forum made recommendations as simple as having officials consistently monitoring who enters all the schools.
Plans for Tuesday night’s session had been in the works since shortly after the Dec. 14 shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Rockland Mayor William Clayton moderated the forum to discuss school safety throughout Regional School Unit 13, which also includes Thomaston, St. George, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Cushing.
The gathering broke into smaller groups and each offered its assessment of current school safety protocols as well as immediate and future goals.
Sarah McLean said that a safety resource officer should be considered for the schools. She said there was no agreement among her group about whether the officer should be armed.
But she said there was agreement that the entrance to schools should be monitored.
Aaron Hustus said the monitoring should be the same at all the schools.
Angie Hall pointed out that when there was a lockdown at the South School in Rockland last year, shortly before the Newtown shootings, there was no information provided to parents until students were sent home with a note. She asked if there was a better way to communicate with parents and to provide more information.
On Dec. 6, there was a partial lockdown at the South School that police and school officials said was a precautionary measure and no threat was aimed at the school. The front door to the school was locked, students were kept inside during recess and a police cruiser was parked outside the school for the day. The matter involved a child having been taken by the state from a home and a parent making a comment about possibly trying to take the child from the school.
“I hope there is a better way to balance confidentiality and allowing parents to make informed decisions on the safety of their children,” Hall said.
RSU 13 Business Manager Scott Vaitones said that lockdown drills need to become as common as fire drills.
Rockland Police Chief Bruce Boucher and Oceanside High School East Principal Tom Forti were in attendance at the meeting. Mayor Clayton held an earlier meeting with public safety officials within the district communities to discuss emergency plans, but he reminded the gathering that there are details about those plans that will not be released publicly as to not make potential offenders aware of the safety steps.
Clayton said he did not want the matter to be put on the shelf and forgotten, pointing out he has two small children. He asked those in attendance to sign a letter that will be sent to the governor and state lawmakers urging them to work to improve school safety.