Located in a small community, Fallsburg Elementary School had left its doors unlocked for visitors since it first opened. After the deadly elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the open-door policy has been reconsidered.
“We just knew some changes had to be made,” Fallsburg Principal Jamie Lester said.
In January a meeting was held by the school for parents to voice concerns. More than 70 parents attended.
Angela Copley is both a teacher at Fallsburg and a parent of two FES students. She attended the meetings and said having an open meeting was the best way to approach the situation.
“I really like having an open forum where everyone could be heard and state their concerns and solutions for the problem,” Copley said.
Those who attended the meeting seemed to agree about the school’s biggest safety concern.
“People kept saying parents can’t just come in the school the way they were,” Lester said.
At the time of the meeting the school was left unlocked during the school day so parents could enter to pick up or drop off their children.
Lester asked parents and faculty for suggestions to improve procedures for morning dropoff and afternoon pickups. He also researched security policies of other schools across the state.
Together Lester and the Fallsburg school community created a stricter school safety policy.
With the new plan, students walk to the gym and sit with their class until either their buses or parents arrive. Students can only leave the school with an adult who has proper identification.
“It’s not intricate or rocket science,” Lester said. “It just makes sense.”
Multiple practice runs were held to make sure all students from kindergarten to eighth grade understand how the new policy works.
Students were given handouts to let parents know about the new procedure.
Copley said the new system makes her feel more at ease as both a parent and a teacher.
“I love the idea that no one can just walk into the building and take any child from the building without showing the proper identification.” Copley said.
Lester says he plans to evaluate the effectiveness of the new process at the end of the school year to determine if improvements will need to be made.
“The changes we’ve made haven’t just been in procedures, but in culture,” Lester said. “We aren’t an open-door school anymore.”
The new procedure began this week.
SARAH BECKELHEIMER is a student at Morehead State University and part of the college’s convergent media program.