The police officers standing outside Montville Township Public Schools Monday served not only to protect the students and faculty members inside each building, but to comfort parents outside as well.
As students returned to school Monday for the first time , Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried said the district worked to keep students ingrained in their routines and ensure normalcy. The most noticeable difference, however, was the officers' presence outside.
"I think it's important, on the heels of what happened Friday, for us to help everyone feel more secure," Fried said. "We want to help our parents, our childen and our staff feel as secure as possible."
Fried said the district is working with the Montville Township Police Department to achieve that and while the officers may appear to be more present this week, police Capt. Ed Rosellini said officers have always maintained a presence at the schools.
"I think that this week just makes it all come to light, as far as the safety issue goes," Rosellini said. "It's something that we're always up on."
Rosellini said patrols at the schools will likely be increased through the holidays.
"We're always there, but we're going to make ourselves a little bit more noticeable this week just to make it more comfortable for the residents," he said.
District administrators also made a point of being seen in the schools Monday as Fried said he, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Casey Shorter and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Andrea Selvaggi all visited the schools in the morning. Fried said he wanted to get a feel for how students and teachers were coping after the incident.
"I think, overall, the students are doing well," he said. "They seem relaxed, they were engaged in instruction."
Fried said some teachers encouraged conversation about the event when they felt it was appropriate and necessary.
"Sometimes questions can be answered very easily and sometimes it involves more conversation," he said.
A few students did visit school guidance counselors to express their feelings about the shootings, Fried said, but no students left school early as of Monday afternoon. Faculty members also seemed to be doing well, he said.
In the days and weeks that follow, district leaders and Montville Township Board of Education members will begin to take a closer look at the district's security systems, plans and policies. Fried said discussions and planning of such items were already in motion, but now will be prioritized after the Newtown incident. One such policy that may be revised is the school lockdown policy, Fried said, which was originally scheduled to be voted on upon second reading at Tuesday night's board meeting. Now, Fried said he would like the board and associated committees to spend time taking a closer look at what should be included in the policy.
"We actually want a little more time to look at it again," Fried said. "On the policy level, we're paying a lot of attention."
Attention will also be paid to the security infrastructure, although Fried did not go into detail, for safety reasons, about what that infrastructure includes.
Examining safety procedures is not a new practice of the district's, rather a proactive and ongoing consideration, the superintendent said. Fried said Montville schools underwent a voluntary safety audit last year.
"We were one of only a few districts in all of Morris County that opted to have this done," he said. "We've already started to implement some changes in our schools connected with that audit. We will continue to follow the recommendations of that audit and any more changes."
Fried said the district will also continue to practice safety emergency drills. All of the safety information has been or will be communicated to district parents through letters and in a commentary Fried said he plans to make at Tuesday's board meeting, which will be held at 8 p.m. at the township municipal building.
While the administrators will work to consider any new safety precautions that should be implemented, Fried said he does feel that Montville schools are safe.
"We feel confident about what's in place right now, but we know that it can never be enough," he said.