After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut triggered nationwide concern for the safety of schoolchildren, security measures became the concern of every parent, teacher and school administrator.
“I heard from parents on a daily basis,” said Miami Springs Elementary Principal Sally Hutchings. “I listened to their input and input from the school district as well. We’re currently revising our arrival and dismissal procedures.”
Because of varying school layouts, each school has a different procedure for parents and students to enter and exit the grounds.
“We’re supposed to have one entry and exit point,” said Hutchings. “We had a meeting that included local police and our staff. Some staff members had experience from teaching at other schools. A plan was developed and we sent letters to every parent. I think it’s an effective plan and parents will feel that their children are safe.”
The plan calls for all gates to be locked and the Park Street school front will be the only entrance for children who walk to school or are brought by parents. The paved area in front of the school will continue to serve as a roundabout where parents can drive up, drop off their children and exit the same way they came in.
However, because of the school’s layout, school busses will continue to drop off and pick up students at the rear of the school.
If parents want to walk in and remain with their children, they can stay in the cafeteria until a teacher picks up the students. Parents have to sign in only if they’re coming for a conference.
“On Monday after the tragedy, I put in a work order to have peepholes installed in all doors,” said Hutchings. “On Wednesday, they were being installed. I also had some locks changed because a few keys had been lost over the years. I also got more keys for padlocks to give to teachers in case we have to get out due to an emergency.”
Hutchings said each classroom has a secret knock for students to use to get back in when they leave homeroom to go to the library, office or restroom.
“We have put in a request in for more outside lighting for when it gets dark on rainy days,” said Hutchings. “In every case, the School Board has been quite proactive.”
Hutchings is having 8-by-11 cards made for parents and other relatives who pick up children in private vehicles. The cards with the student’s name are to be placed on dashboards. Pickups are supervised by teachers and most already know who’s supposed to pick up each student.
“I’ve sent home letters in both English and Spanish, along with instructions and maps of the new procedures,” said Hutchings.
Although children do improper things at times and sometimes bring inappropriate objects to school, Hutchings hasn’t had any significant problems during her six years as principal. “We speak to the parents and it doesn’t happen again,” said Hutchings.
Hutchings said, “Parents have been very supportive, although some will have to walk farther because of limited access. But there have been no complaints because it’s all for the safety of the children. And being a block (away from) the Miami Springs Police Station is great!”
Sitting at the school entrance for 18 year is always smiling and welcoming security personnel Danny Hernandez.
“I never had a problem,” he said. “I know everybody and everybody knows me. The school is safe all the time.”