Superintendant Nancy Talbott said the situation at the schools had returned to normal by Wednesday, but noted that routine security measures remain in place. “Our doors remain locked, and entry continues to be monitored at all times.”
Local schools have increased their security over the last several years. Uncontrolled access to Twin Valley High School has been limited for the last couple of years. Security measures including keypad locks, an intercom, video monitoring, and remote entry buzzer were installed at Deerfield Valley Elementary School last year. “For us, (security) is routine,” said DVES Principal Rebecca Fillion.
Whitingham Elementary/Twin Valley Middle School Principal Keith Lyman said that his school does remain at a somewhat heightened security level. Prior to Monday’s alert, the main entrance at the Whitingham facility had been unlocked, although entry was monitored by office staff. The entrance was due for a security upgrade, with an intercom and a remote mechanism to “buzz” visitors in after identification, but the work was included in upcoming consolidation renovations. Lyman says the doors will remain locked now.
“We reviewed our security and made the decision to lock the front door at all times moving forward,” he said, “and we’re screening visitors. It seemed like the logical thing to do in the long term.”
Twin Valley School Board member Phil Taylor said the board hopes to wire a temporary buzzer at the entrance.
Police on Monday said the threats were general in nature, and not specifically directed at children in the Deerfield Valley, or at Twin Valley, Whitingham, or Wilmington schools. But as a precautionary measure, Wilmington and Whitingham schools joined Brattleboro in taking extra steps to secure their facilities.
Wilmington Police Chief Joe Szarejko said the department had received information, including photos, of an individual who had made general threats and, in cooperation with school districts, stepped up security at the facilities. “(Monday) morning we had officers in or near the schools until all the doors were locked,” he said. “Throughout the day officers will check the school more frequently and principals have direct communication with us. Both the officers and principals have photos of the individual, so they know who to look out for.”
Except for indoor recess, students didn’t have any changes in their daily routine. Szarejko said police officers would be at the school or nearby during drop-off and pickup times.
A number of parents expressed concern upon hearing about the added security, but Szarejko said there was no reason for parents to be concerned that their children aren’t safe at Deerfield Valley schools. “There’s no reason to suggest the individual who made the threats will come to Wilmington to do any harm here. We’re being vigilant as a precaution.”
Schools in Brattleboro were also on heightened security on Monday, with increased police patrols. In a public statement released on Monday, Brattleboro Town Manager Barbara Sondag said, “Since the recent tragedy at Newtown we are extremely sensitive to possible threats to our children and will respond in a proactive manner. While we live in a time that requires us to be watchful, the individual in question has violated no laws and our response must therefore be balanced.”