N.H. schools react to threats in Windham County

Friday February 1, 2013

WINCHESTER, N.H. -- The alleged security threat made toward schools in Vermont's Windham County this week put schools just over the river on alert but none resorted to the same safety protocols taken in Brattleboro, Vt.

A possible threat Monday prompted police cruisers to monitor Brattleboro schools for a couple of days and building doors remained locked. Not much information has been made available but Ron Stahley, Windham Southeast Supervisory Union superintendent, said necessary safety precautions continued at each school site throughout the week.

Jim Lewis, superintendent of School Administrative Unit 94, said the Winchester School went into modified shelter-in-place on Tuesday and Wednesday due to the situation in Windham County. He said the protocol entails pulling down all curtains and not opening the doors for anyone without the proper badge. He said everyone in the school, which educates 470 children in kindergarten through eighth grade, had a heightened sense of awareness.

"It went perfectly," he said, adding that the plan was presented to the children as a practice. "Nobody panicked."

Lewis said no parents were notified about the modified shelter-in-place but the week's details will be featured in the school's newsletter, which comes out every Friday.

He said the precautions taken were in no way influenced by the Dec. 14, 2012, school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in which a man shot to death 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Lewis said the school regularly performs safety drills.

"We're a very secure facility," he told the Reformer.

Dr. David Crisafulli, superintendent of School Administrative Unit 92, said Hinsdale Middle/High School and the local elementary school followed appropriate protocol but declined to elaborate. He said some precautionary measures were taken and a safe environment was ensured with no problems.

"If there was something out of the ordinary, parents would be alerted," he said, adding that the SAU worked with local police.

Mark Hayward, superintendent of School Administrative Unit 29 (which includes Chesterfield and Westmoreland), said he was unaware of the threats made in Windham County until he read the newspaper on Tuesday. He said, either way, safety drills can be traumatic for children in kindergarten through eighth grade, especially in the wake of a tragedy like the Newtown massacre.

Hayward said there will be a safety audit in the near future.

The superintendent of School Administrative Unit 60 (which encompasses Walpole, Alstead, Acworth, Charlestown and Langdon) said no children attended school in her SAU Monday because there was a professional development at Fall Mountain Regional High School.

Deb Livingston said the school resource officer at the high school informed her what was going on in Windham County and the situation was monitored over the next few days.

Windham County officials have not revealed the exact nature of their security concerns.

A statement on Monday from the Brattleboro town manager said "officials were notified that a person who had previously made nonspecific threats regarding school-age people might be returning to the area."

Parents of Windham County students were notified of extra school security through automated phone messages Sunday night. That resulted in a high rate of absenteeism, with only about 60 percent of Brattleboro Union High School students showing up Monday.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311. You can follow him @dpoli_reformer.


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