EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 9, 2013

Riley calls Lawrence school safety steps 'well ahead of the curve'

LAWRENCE — Superintendent/receiver Jeffrey C. Riley said he’s confident that Lawrence Public Schools excel when it comes to providing a safe learning environment for its students.

“We think we well ahead of the curve,” Riley told members of the School Committee last night.

The schools district’s security was a key part of his briefing during the committee’s first meeting since last month’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut where 26 people were killed — including 20 young students.

“Almost all schools have a buzzer (entry) system — all but two,” Riley told the committee. He noted that those two schools will be receiving the security systems this year.

School officials had taken many steps to enhance school safety even before the Connecticut school tragedy, according to Riley. This included the replacement of 45 school security cameras that weren’t working and adding additional school security guards.

Each school has a crisis plan in place that is periodically updated and students receive monthly drills. In addition to staffing the schools with three dozen full-time school security officers, the Lawrence Police Department provides four school resource officers, Riley said.

One of the police officers is assigned specifically to the Lawrence High School campus while the other three “float” throughout the school system, wherever they are needed, he said.

“We think we have the best security of any school system in the Merrimack Valley,” Riley said in an interview later.

“We have put a lot of resources into security. We’ve done a lot with Chief Romero to make sure we have a safe environment for our kids. We take school security very seriously,” he said.

Riley said every school in Lawrence Public Schools has specific “crisis plans” in place to protect children and staff from situations like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

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