Newtown Board Of Education Meets; Resolutely Takes Up Business Of Running Schools

The Hartford Courant

At the first formal school board meeting since the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Superintendent Janet Robinson told the members that, since that deadly day, students in all schools have not gone outdoors for recess.

Details like that, and larger concerns such as school security, were discussed at a meeting that, while dealing with issues arising from the massacre, seemed like an effort to move forward.

Robinson told the board that there are two police officers, at minimum, at every school in town. Only three parents spoke to the board, and called for the officers to remain at the schools permanently.

"I know I speak for many parents," said resident Amy Roman. "We feel it has gone from a want to a need."

Tuesday's meeting started with a moment of silence in memory of the deceased. The board members didn't discuss any details about the tragedy, and only referenced the mass shooting as the "events of Dec. 14."

Robinson and board Chairwoman Debbie Leidlein thanked the Town of Monroe for its genorisity in allowing the town to use the former Chalk Hill School —Sandy Hook students began classes at the building last week.

The opening of the newly renamed Sandy Hook Elementary School was heartwarming, Robinson said. Routines were resumed and staff and students felt safe and walked around the building to get accustomed to their new surroundings, she said.

Robinson said it was important that students and staff remain together at the new location. Towns like Ridgefield and Derby had offered classrooms for the town to use, but staff and students were able to remain together by moving to Monroe, she said.

Robinson said there will be a police presence at all of Newtown's schools indefinitely, and said that may include police officers from other towns. The board and the town council will need to decide what else to do about school security in the future, Robinson said.

David Freedman, a resident who said he favors having officers in schools, stressed that students need to be able to go outside for recess without fear. He also reminded school officials that there needs to be a balance when it comes to having police in schools.

The school board will also need to decide whether to ask the state education commissioner to grant certain waivers to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

All Connecticut schools are required to be in session for at least 180 days, but Sandy Hook can ask that the state make an exception because of the shooting, Robinson said. Sandy Hook was closed for six days after the shooting.

The board can also ask the commissioner to waive Connecticut Mastery Test requirements for Sandy Hook students. Robinson said she's not sure yet whether the board should make that request, but said it is an option if the board thinks that the test might provoke too much additional anxiety among students.

The school board must also work on its budget request for fiscal year 2013-14, another difficult task. The board doesn't know yet what the school system's long-term needs will be, especially for Sandy Hook Elementary, Leidlein said.

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