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Safety in schools a top priority this year

Students head back to school at Salem Hyde Elementary School
Jessica Cain
Students head back to school at Salem Hyde Elementary School

Syracuse City School DistrictInterim Superintendent Anthony Davis greeted students at Salem Hyde Elementary School Wednesday as they arrived for their first day of school.

And with the arrival of a new school year comes a renewed emphasis on safety.

Davis said he feels the district has a good plan in place.

"At this point, we feel as though we've done those things to secure our buildings and make sure our kids have a safe and secure opening," said Davis.

The district is adding 40 sentries this year, at least one per building, to help with security. Plus, Davis said it will soon bring in peace officers in collaboration with the Syracuse Police Department.

Davis said all of the high schools have metal detectors, and the middle schools will use metal detectors sparingly.

"We collaborate a lot with the city in the context of if something is going on, we're made aware,” said Davis. “If we believe something is going on, then we talk. We just try to make sure that the knowledge is there, so that we can make sure everybody is protected."

Central Square School District Superintendent Tom Colabufo said his district has six special patrol officers at its schools. The district has also put into a place a number of safety and security measures as part of a recent capital project. That includes investing in more cameras and securing building entrances.

"Every single one of our schools now has a locked-in vestibule with a ballistic proof, protective glass in the vestibule,” said Colabufo. “Basically someone's locked into that, so no longer can someone just walk into the building."

Jaclyn Schildkraut is an associate professor of criminal justice at SUNY Oswego and an expert in mass shootings. Schildkraut has worked with multiple local schools to develop plans, and she adds another key to keeping schools safe is empowering students to pass on information if they see something wrong.

"Some students will have phenomenal relationships with people on campus and will be OK to come and talk to that individual,” said Schildkraut. “Others don't have that relationship, so providing something like an anonymous tip line is also incredibly helpful, so that everybody has a way to communicate."

The Syracuse City School District is also conducting mental health and threat assessment training for staff to help them respond to any risks they may see.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.