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Melrose sends letter to parents in wake of Newtown shootings

Posted by Jarret Bencks  December 18, 2012 10:47 AM

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The City of Melrose sent letters to parents Monday, outlining the security measures its schools have in place.

The letter, signed by the mayor, superintendent, and fire and police chiefs, listed nine examples of school security in Melrose.

"It is important for you to know first and foremost that every employee, every administrator that is employed by the City of Melrose, has dedicated their professional life to helping ensure that people are safe," the letter said. "Be it children, the elderly, or people in our business districts and our neighborhoods."

The entire letter can be read below:

Dear Parents,

We know you share our shock and deep sadness regarding the events that unfolded this weekend in Newtown, Connecticut. In many ways, Newtown looks very similar to Melrose: Small neighborhood schools, a close, tight-knit community, and an environment where people feel safe every day. It is fair to say that they will never, as a community, completely recover from this tragic event, and I think it is fair to say that the nation shares in their grief and pain.

However, it is important for you to know first and foremost that every employee, every administrator that is employed by the City of Melrose, has dedicated their professional life to helping ensure that people are safe, be it children, the elderly, or people in our business districts and our neighborhoods. Every employee of the City of Melrose plays a role in enhancing safety and quality of life for all individuals.

Please be assured that on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis, we train, prepare for, and review policies and procedures and action plans, to ensure, in the case of any emergency, that we are ready to address it in the best possible way. Although we review continuously, this morning we started the day by coming together to take a different look at how we ensure safety for every child that you drop off to go to class or to a sporting event, a fine arts concert, or an afterschool program. We consider those children our children and prepare for their safety as you would prepare in your own home.

Some examples of our preparedness:

1. The Melrose Fire Department and the Captain dedicated to school safety evaluate and make necessary adjustments to evacuation plans at all schools, including outside gathering places and dealing with the needs of disabled or special education students. They work closely with the principal of each school. Each party signs off on the evacuation plans, and these plans are practiced during the school year, with children and teachers.

2. Our Police Department is trained to deal with emergency situations involving our schools and children. They work as part of consortium of law enforcement agencies, Northeast Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC), which is the regional emergency response team that supports local police departments in situations such as school threats, missing children, or violent incidents. There is a response team of NEMLEC, called School Threat Assessment Response System (STARS), which is specifically dedicated to working with local school districts during emergency situations. It is important to know they are not simply called during these emergencies but train year round and constantly evaluate best practices throughout the region to ensure they are ready for any contingency. Our police department works very closely with them, and our Chief is the Assistant Control Chief to NEMLEC STARS.

3. Our Health Department is trained to deal with emergencies that may include contamination, medical crises, or infection.

4. Communication systems have been set up over previous years, from Connect Ed to Code Red to use of public access television, to provide ongoing, up-to-date information to parents and caregivers, as well as the community as a whole.

5. Our Police Department and Fire Department work with the School Department to prepare lockdown drills, which are practiced yearly in our schools.

6. Buzzer systems with video monitors are active and in place in all of our schools.

7. Identification badges are given to all personnel, and visitors are asked to sign in and out when they enter a school.

8. Additional plans are developed for students with disabilities that may need special attention in any situation.

9. Classroom educators participate in drills with their students.

I think we all must acknowledge that today begins a new day in how we look at safety and procedures regarding our schools, no different than after September 11 or Columbine. It is unfortunate but true that tragic events such as these emphasize how important it is for every employee and every parent to follow and administer policies and procedures that make us safer. You are our most important partners in ensuring school safety. We are continuing to dedicate our lives to making sure that you and your family are safe. These are very difficult times for our country, but we feel confident that as we continue to be vigilant, and continue our strong training and preparedness, Melrose will remain the safe community it is today.

Thank you for your continued support.

Robert J. Dolan, Mayor

Cyndy Taymore, Superintendent of Schools

Fire Chief Christopher Leary

Police Chief Michael Lyle

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