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School Security Up in Hopatcong, Sparta After CT Shooting

Increased security for visitors, more police presence in the week after tragedy in Newtown, Conn.

Just days after the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. stunned the nation when 20-year-old Adam Lanzo took the lives of 20 young school children and six adults in a shooting spree, many schools across the country have increased their security to ensure kids' safety. 

Both Hopatcong and Sparta superintendents sent out messages to all parents on Saturday, letting them know that the schools are safe and that exisiting security protocols are in place and are being reviewed.

"My call was to reassure people that we are aware of the tragedy, we are looking at everything we do to ensure the safety of children and adults, and that we are going to continue with our routines," Maranzano said Monday.

In Sparta's message, Superintendent Dennis Tobin also attached a document with talking points for how parents can discuss this kind of crisis with their children.

"I want to assure all of our community members that a positive and safe learning environment exists in all of our Sparta Schools," he wrote in the email to parents. "This is a credit to our students, staff, parents and community members. It is also important for our parents and guardians to know that we have security procedures in place for any type of emergency situation."

All borough school principals met on Monday with Maranzano and a representative from Hopatcong Police where they reviewed the current safety plans and the implications of dealing with a crisis.

"Those are ongoing discussions but we are doing everything we can," he said. "We go above and beyond in terms of school safety and security with the resources that we have."

Tobin said the Sparta district administrative team also met Monday morning to review the current safety procedure.

"We reviewed our plan and procedures, and if anything right now we're just reinforcing some concepts of that plan with our staff," he said.

As of Monday, both districts have increased security for allowing visitors access to the buildings. While the buidlings are always locked and require visitors to get buzzed in, it will take more time before a visitor may be granted permission to enter.

All schools in both districts also have security cameras at the main entrances. Maranzano said the Hopatcong cameras are web-enabled where police can view them.

The tragedy on Friday also prompted police to have more of a presence in both Hopatcong and Sparta communities.

"For this week leading up to the holidays and the immediate week after this horrific situation in Connecticut, they [police] do plan on having more of a presence in our community and around our schools so our school community feels a little more safe and secure," Tobin said.

While the subject of the tragedy will not be discussed by teachers in the classrooms as the schools aim to maintain normal routines, the schools will have crisis teams and counslers available to talk to any students.

Maranzano said the current safety plan in the district covers every aspect of students' safety and adult protocols including fire drills, active shooter and intruder drills, and anything else that has to do with a disrpution of the school environment.

Under the state law, every district is required to practice the drills at least twice per month.

Maranzano said the district is doing everything they can right now to help the school community after the Connecticut tragedy.

"At this point we have an elevated sense of urgency, so we're doing everything we possibly can to ensure the safety of children." 

Betty Reid December 18, 2012 at 07:20 PM
The shooter was not buzzed in. He broke a window next to the door and that is how he got in. All of our schools are locked and have intercoms for the office personnel to communicate with the person at the door. I'm sorry to say that when a person is mentally ill nothing is going to stop him. I don't want to see our schools set up like armed fortresses. My heart aches for the people in Connecticut.
Jennifer Marchese-Cegielnik December 18, 2012 at 08:54 PM
I had gone to hopatcong high for the first time last month to drop something off and accidentally went to the side door a student opened the door though he did tell me to go to the main entrance which was good but he still opened the door which he shouldn't have. Very scary
Jenn December 18, 2012 at 10:50 PM
I went to the Middle School today to pick up my son who was sick. I pushed the button on the intercom and was buzzed right in...didnt ask me who I was or what my business was. Yes there are cameras but I'm sure they dont look at them all of the time.
Tracy Mazzei Piacentino December 19, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Unfortunately there is nothing in my eyes that could have been done to stop Adam from getting into SHES. He broke a window and climbed in. Then used a machine gun which should only be given to military personal (no reason to have one to hunt. They are only for killing many people at once). I see more a broken mental health system. This kid was crying for help for years! & where was everyone when his mother was struggling to get him help. Where the hell was his father! No contact with him for over 2 years?? That's horrible. I think our schools are doing all they can. Kids need to realize they cannot let anyone inside their school ever! And I feel the office should be at the door you are buzzed in at. Shouldn't have to walk through a hallway to get there. Most people don't,myself included. If my kid is sick at the nurse I say 'picking up my sick kid' they buzz me in & I go straight to the nurse. I won't any longer, but I did this just last week!
Sandan December 19, 2012 at 03:44 AM
The best solution is layered security with armed professionals. The appearance of active security is a deterrent. An instant improvement would be to escort visitors into the building, not buzz them in.

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