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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 public school districts.

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

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

Follow-up meetings will be planned through the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services, which is composed of 17 districts in St. Lawrence County and Harrisville Central in 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 others want officers to walk through all of their buildings routinely.

“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 that while state police officers already were 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 the Zone 2 commander for state police Troop B.

In the past, several school districts had DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) 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 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 also will have an 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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