UPDATED: Discussions focus on school safety

In the wake of Friday's mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Superintendent Ralph Iassogna did his best to reassure parents and staff that school safety was a top priority.

Before schools opened Monday, Iassogna and school security staff met with police Chief Tom Kiely and deputies Glenn Byrnes and Michael Harry to review school security procedures and possible enhancements to building safety.

"Our administration, the town and police are working very hard to provide a safe environment and are meeting continually to monitor security measures, even though the solution to school violence and safety lies beyond the boundaries of Trumbull and even Connecticut," Iassogna said.

Police in marked and unmarked cars were at the schools Monday morning, and school officials also met at each school to review safety measures, including control of the "buzzer" access at each building.

Iassogna also told parents to try to maintain as normal a routine as possible. Though parents may want to escort their children to the classroom instead of dropping them off at the door, Iassogna urged otherwise.

"The flow of parents and others into the building must be minimized, as security, normalcy and routines will be our prevailing message," he said. "In such times, it is strongly recommended that we strive to keep routines as normal as possible, as it is well known that children gain security from the predictability of routines."

Finally, Iassogna directed the staff not to focus on the recent tragedy, but to respond to student questions or concerns in an age- and developmentally appropriate manner, particularly among elementary school-age children.

"We will never forget our deep sense of loss for our fallen colleagues who gave their lives for children and to other staff whose valiant efforts and actions saved the lives of many others," he said.

On Monday, all Trumbull schools observed a moment of silence and flew flags at half-staff. In addition, crisis counselors were ready.

Safety is an ongoing topic of conversation in meetings between school administrators and police officials, Harry said.

"Even in meetings among police chiefs, we are always discussing what we are doing to try and learn and see what works."

Harry said one idea is to have a "panic button" in the schools. Many residential burglar alarms have such codes, where a single press of a button sends a message directly to police headquarters that there is an emergency at the school. Electronic systems also could be developed to automatically shut and lock all doors in the building to prevent access to classrooms by an intruder.

"Those are long-term solutions, and right now we really need to focus on short-term safety," Harry said. Currently the police are running extra patrols in marked and unmarked cars in school areas, and other communities have patrol cars parked in school parking lots, though he said the manpower demands of such a system made it unrealistic as a permanent solution.

Iassogna said he and his security staff were reviewing procedures with the staff at each building, starting with the entrance buzzer. Visitors to the schools need to ring a buzzer, and a member of the office staff asks their name and reason for coming to the school, then tells them to report directly to the office. There can be no exceptions, Iassogna said.

"When I go to a school, I buzz the office and I expect to have to tell them who I am and why I'm there," he said.