Friday, August 22, 2014 - 7:47:46 AM

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Officials Say Schools Have Become Safer One Year After Tragedy

Grieving parents refer to it as 12/14.  It will also be an emotional day for educators, especially for Windsor Superintendent Jason Andrews.

"Not only from a professional stand point of the tragedy of losing students and staff and how to respond, but having a personal relationship hit home even more," said Andrews.

Andrews was friends with Dawn Hochsprung, the principal killed during the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

After attending the services, Andrews returned to manage his  district which he says was already secure with cameras and classroom doors that open only with activated cards.

Andrews says Sandy Hook created more conversation between teachers parents and local law enforcement on how they would respond in an emergency.

"Really trying to follow exactly what had occurred and what challenges were faced by school officials in Connecticut gave us the opportunity to look at what we might do in a similar situation.  We did make changes to our safety and security plans and also continue to make upgrades to our facility," said Andrews.

"It's a heart breaking event and one that haunts those of us who work in schools and will haunt us for the rest of our lives.  But it did require us to make sure we were doing everything possible to ensure the safety and security of our students," said Suzanne McLeod, Superintendent of Union-Endicott Schools.

McLeoud and Andrews took part in the New York State School Boards Association Survey which revealed 59% of superintendents surveyed believe their schools have become safer since December 14, 2012.

Within 24 hours of the tragedy, the U-E district mandated the high school to have only one entrance.  Over the past year,  administrators went through a course in disaster response led by Homeland Security.

In both districts, the capital projects approved by voters this week  designate funds for security upgrades.  At U-E, this means new door handles with locks will be installed in each classroom.

When it comes to future upgrades, superintendents say the challenge will be money.  Capital projects require voter approval and general funds are limited.

Both hope government funding will play a part in helping schools remain safe.

"Things like security cameras. These things are not inexpensive so we hope that our legislators remember this as they are looking for funding streams for schools," said McLeod.

The School Board Associations conclusions and recommendations from that survey suggest enacting legislation to ensure state or federal support for schools safety and enact legislation to exempt school safety enhancements from the tax levy cap calculations.

**Ali Warner Fox 40 HD News**



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