Southold Elementary to install new locking safety doors following tragedy

Southold Elementary School will install new locking safety doors and the school district will hold both announced and unannounced emergency drills in conjunction with the police department in January, in response to the elementary school massacre earlier this month in Newtown, Conn.

“We know that this can happen anywhere. We can always do better. The system in place needs to be enhanced,” said Superintendent David Gamberg at a school board meeting Dec. 19. “We don’t want to create a state of fear, but there will be a series of drills … This is a very stark reminder that we have to be proactive, not reactive … We’re not going to ignore the subject.”

Mr. Gamberg said that while the district’s students “have presented themselves in a very composed way” since the tragedy, the students can speak to mental health professionals in the school any time they are afraid.

Parent Amy Burns, who has three children in the district, tearfully read a letter to the board, urging them to do more to protect children.

She suggested the school not allow students to carry backpacks, which could conceal weapons, in the hallways, and to not allow high school students to leave the school at lunch time.

Ms. Burns said she also sent a letter this week to her son’s kindergarten teacher thanking her for taking care of her students every day.

“I know she would die getting all those children out of there,” she said. “I’m so blessed to be a part of Southold.”

“We’ve all had sleepless nights this past week,” said board president Paulette Ofrias. “I wish more people would share their thoughts and ideas.”

Ms. Ofrias added that between the hurricane, the death of a Southold student at a recent cross-country meet and the Newtown incident, she’s noticed that students in Southold have seemed heavy-hearted this fall.

“All I can hope for is that 2013 will be better for our students, the community and the nation,” she said.

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