PIQUA - Piqua students returned to school Monday without incident, following last Friday's school shootings in Newtown, Conn. The only thing different for Piqua kids, said Superintendent Rick Hanes, was an increase in police presence around the district's nine buildings. "Chief Bruce Jamison (Piqua Police) and I were in contact over the weekend," Hanes said Tuesday. "He did increase the police presence and visibility in the school zones." Friday's fatal shooting of 20 young students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., has sparked a debate about school security in the nation's schools. In Piqua, police regularly patrol school zones during the morning and afternoon hours when students are coming to school and leaving for home.
Students may not have even noticed the increase of patrol cars on Monday, since the Piqua Police Department already has what Hanes calls a "good visibility" around the school buildings. "Our partnership with them has been good," Hanes said. "When we make phone calls when we need them they are good about getting there quickly." This partnership is vital in providing a safe environment for both students and staff, Hanes said. Not only did Hanes communicate with local law enforcement, he also sent a districtwide email to the entire Piqua City Schools' staff Monday, asking building administrators to take a few minutes to review their building safety plan. In the email, Hanes reassured staff members that he'd been in contact with the Piqua Police Department and of the increase in patrol. Also Monday, administration team members at the board office took time to review the entire district's emergency protocol. "We're always looking at how we can do things better," Hanes said. "We do a review of our safety plan on an annual basis. The safety management team does the review and makes updates, some suggested by Piqua police and fire departments." Piqua police and fire personnel also had input during the design phase for the school district's three new buildings, Hanes said. "We had two meetings with the police and fire departments, looking at the new buildings," Hanes said. The new facilities will feature security measures that will be included as part of the development of each building, Hanes said, compared to the "added on" security call button features at the current school buildings. Today, visitors are asked to press a call button, which activates a camera so building secretaries can see who is requesting access at the front entry of each building. The three new buildings will not only include front entry security measures, but security cameras will be located both inside and outside throughout the campuses, Hanes said. All staff members at the new buildings will be issued a 'fob' with built-in authentication, which must be used to gain access inside the buildings. Piqua students also are led in a safety drill once a month, Hanes said. He also noted that the district's guidance department was on call Monday, but was not activated. "We have a back-up system if we need to call in more counselors," Hanes said, in case staff or students need help dealing with a situation like Friday's tragedy. "But we didn't have to."