Within hours of last week's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, school administrators in District 13 gathered to review security at all six schools in Durham and Middlefield.
The reaction to the shootings led to immediate changes across the district, according to Superintendent Susan Viccaro, who met Wednesday night with the Board of Education during a special meeting at John Lyman School attended by about twenty parents.
"Between Friday and today, we've learned a lot and we've made some adjustments," Viccaro said.
The superintendent, board members and parents discussed a number of security issues at the meeting, among them access to school buildings.
Each school in the district has security access doors which are equipped with cameras and require vistors to be buzzed-in, Viccaro said. On Monday, school staff began locking all doors during non-arrival times and requiring visitors, including parents, to identify themselves and their reason for visiting the school before they were allowed to enter a building.
"Some of you have probably had to wait in line," Viccaro said speaking to the audience of parents.
In addition, janitors conducted sweeps of each school to make sure that exterior doors were able to be locked and a security company conducted inspections of security systems in each school on Monday, she said.
One area of concern among administrators are the district's portable classrooms, which are not equipped with the same security level as the district's main buildings.
Viccaro said the district is considering several immediate options to increase security for the portable classrooms, including installing similar limited access doors or even fences.
For the time being, teachers have been ordered to lock the doors to portable classrooms from the inside, Viccaro said.
"Is it cumbersome? Yes. Is it important? Absolutely. So, until we come up with longer term solutions that's what we're doing with our portables," she said. "That's my biggest concern."
While Viccaro has been involved in ongoing discussions with administrators and other school officials to determine what measures should and can be taken to improve security at schools, some actions have been more immediate.
Police have been regular visitors to schools this week and counselors have been made available to students and staff.
Although the Sandy Hook tragedy has dominated the news, Viccaro said the decision was made by administrators to leave parents responsible for discussing the events in Newtown with their children.
"I feel strongly about that. I think it's a very personal decision that you as parents need to make about what you want to talk to your kids about," she said
Understandably, some parents choose to bring their children to school this week, Viccaro said. Several board members however expressed concern that visitors, particularly parents dropping off their children, are able to enter a school building through one door and exit another.
"I don't think it would be onerous for us to adopt a policy that says parents must access in and out of the monitored entrances," board chairman Kerrie Flanagan said.
Questions raised by parents that attended the meeting included whether schools had increased security during outdoor recess or whether the district was considering hiring school resources officers.
"As a parent on this side, I don't think we're feeling a lot safer listening [about] cameras and making sure the doors lock and the keys [are] working. That's not making me feel that safe, so my question back to you is that something you're giving serious though to," parent Rick Terrill asked.
"I think this has rocked the country, the state, the town, the schools to the core. To answer your question there is nothing that is not in consideration if we think that it can make us safer," Flanagan replied.
Coginchaug High School previously had a school resource officer, but the position was eliminated after funding for it was cut, Viccaro said.
Another parent said he worried that physical improvements would create a false sense of security and suggested that the district consider hiring an outside firm to conduct a vulnerability assessment at each school.
"As much physical security as you put in, the person who's intent on getting past that will find a way," the parent said.
Flanagan said security would remain the board's top priority for the foreseeable and appeared to welcome the idea of a vulnerability assessment.
Prior to last week's incident in Newtown, schools in District 13 performed two lockdown drills during the school year. The number of drills is likely to be increased but is still under discussion, Viccaro said.
"We have crisis plans for a variety of different situations," the superintendent said. "Precedures are a little bit different at each school."
The board agreed to require substitute teachers to attend at least one drill per year. Viccaro said the district is working closely with the town's emergency management departments and emergency responders.
"We're all anxious to have answers to all of these questions and it's going to take some time," board member Robert Fulton said.
Prior to the start of the meeting a moment of silence was held for the victims of last week's shootings in Newtown.