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Changes coming to pick up/drop off policy at Lawrence Avenue Elementary


POTSDAM — Following an incident two weeks ago that led to the lockout at Potsdam Central Schools, parents can expect to see their access to buildings restricted.

Elementary Principal Larry B. Jenne, who chairs the district’s safety committee, said policies for picking up and dropping off students are being addressed. “We need to change that so parents do not come into the building,” he said.

An exterior door currently grants access to the Lawrence Avenue Elementary School cafeteria. Mr. Jenne suggested blocking off a portion of the cafeteria to create an area for parents to wait while picking up students at the end of the school day. At the beginning of the day, students will have to be dropped off at the door, he said.

“In the morning, we allow parents to come into the building with their kids and walk them to class,” he said. “I feel that is a security issue we need to address.”

On Oct. 3, the fiance of an elementary child’s mother made a remark that Mr. Jenne perceived to be a threat, leading to a lockout at all buildings and the man’s arrest. The principal said other incidents, too, prompted him to consider the need to restrict access.

“One of the things that happens is parents come into the classroom and address the teachers, not always in a happy manner, and sometimes using language that is inappropriate and where other students can hear it,” he said. “We’re going to take care of a lot of those situations.”

Mr. Jenne said he understands the new policy will require change for some parents, but he feels it is necessary.

“We can’t think we’re immune to these situations,” he said. “I don’t want to ever be in a situation where we’re not doing everything possible to keep our students safe.”

Board of Education member Danielle L. Gray told the principal during a meeting Tuesday that she agreed with the changes. Board member Frederick C. Stone Jr. said security upgrades should be further discussed so they can be included in the coming capital project.

“Maybe we need to sit down with SEI” — the district’s architectural firm — “and look at creating a pick-up and drop-off point,” he said.

While speaking to the board, Mr. Jenne also detailed how he felt the lockout situation was handled.

“We always did lockdown drills instead of lockout drills,” he said. “Some teachers went into lockdown because it’s what they have always done.”

In lockout mode, activity continued as normal in each of buildings, with the only change being no one was allowed to enter or leave the building. Had the district gone into lockdown mode, each of the classrooms would have been locked.

Given that there were students outside at the time of the lockout, Mr. Jenne said those students were taken to another district building, which was then locked.

Mr. Jenne pointed out that this week’s school shooting in Nevada happened on a playground.

“Our goal is to look at these issues each month and see what we can do to get better,” he said. “I think it’s pretty timely to be looking at security.”

Board member J. Patrick Turbett said he agreed with the changes as well, but advised Mr. Jenne that he could expect to receive some negative feedback. “I think your suggestions are good, but there’s obviously going to be some people not happy with them.”

Mr. Jenne said he will notify parents of the changes before they are implemented.

Two parents said they agreed with the changes, noting school security is what brought them to the meeting.

“My concerns have been addressed,” said Amy DiMarco, who noted that she has either taught or had children in schools in five states and three countries.

“Potsdam has the slackest visitor and entry policies,” she said.

Traci Grainger also supported the changes. She said that last year following the Sandy Hook massacre, the district briefly implemented some changes, but later relented after receiving negative feedback.

“I would like to suggest that any changes you do make, you stick to them,” she said.

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