With outstretched condolences and a reignited concern for school security after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., local school districts and officials were prompted this week to reassure parents and the surrounding community that students are kept safe and staff members are prepared.

Horizon Community Learning Center, the Kyrene School District, and the Tempe Union High School District, among others, sent out notices to parents this week listing safety measures and precautions taken for each school.

Horizon Community Learning Center

Executive Director Betsy Fera said that while “no one can never predict the actions of another human being, we will continue to monitor and make our school a safe place for your children.”

The school’s staff and employees often review an Emergency Response Plan and frequently run fire drills and practice lockdowns. Security cameras cover the campus and a new emergency communication system was installed last year that allows the school to call, text, and email all parents from smartphones as well as the regular phone system.

A full-time person designated for security is on campus at all times, monitoring both during and after school hours.

“Most importantly, we encourage students and staff to communicate to us about what they observe and if something just doesn’t seem right,” said Fera in the letter. “While this can never be a guarantee that nothing will ever happen, we will continue to be diligent.”

Kyrene School District

Superintendent Dr. David Schauer said this week that Kyrene “continues to take the safety and security of our students and staff very seriously.”

During the school day, all exterior doors to school buildings are locked, with the front office serving as the only point of entry. All of the district’s schools have a video fence where cameras operate 24 hours a day, according to a letter from Schauer.

Each school follows a comprehensive crisis plan and regularly practice lockdown and fire drills. During a lockdown, district badges do not open exterior doors, and crisis personnel at the district office are automatically contacted.

Schauer mentioned that schools regularly review crisis plans and work closely with all local emergency agencies.

Tempe Union High School District

Promoting a “positive and nurturing culture” on campus, Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Baca said the high school district’s aim to keep school grounds and students safe is a “top priority.”

In addition to an Emergency Management Plan, each high school in the district is equipped with security cameras, new locking systems and uniformed, school resource officers in partnership with the cities of Tempe and Phoenix.

Staff and employees are also ongoing in training for emergency situations that require four online class completions, according to the letter.

“Let us remain determined that this tragedy is never repeated,” Baca added.

Remembering the lost

Around the country, candlelight vigils and memorial services were hosted for the 27 people, 20 of which were children, who died during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14.

A group of Mountain Pointe High School students in Ahwatukee offered their respects to the victims Tuesday, drawing a crowd of more than 100 students during each lunch hour on Dec. 18.

After a few short words from a teary-eyed Principal Bruce Kipper, and others, a few students played guitar and sang “Fix You” by Coldplay.

Encompassing the performers, the crowd held hands as the words “and the tears come streaming down your face, when you lose something you can’t replace...could it be worse?” echoed through the school’s outdoor entryway.

“I really had to ask myself, what can I do to help make Mountain Pointe a safer place?” asked Kipper, as he spoke to his students. “We’re a family, as corny as that sounds, but that’s what we are, and families help each other out.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or dmartinez@ahwatukee.com. Follow on Twitter: @_dianamartinez.

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