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Farmington School District 192 will talk safety at public meeting Monday

After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., principals at Farmington schools were flooded with calls from parents, many of whom wanted to know about the security measures in place in School District 192. On Monday, many of those questions will be answered.

Farmington Area Public Schools has scheduled a "Community Dialog on School Safety" for 7 p.m. Jan. 14, in the large lecture hall at Farmington High School. It is free, and open to the public.

"It's something with high interest in the community," ISD 192 superintendent Jay Haugen said. "We were hearing from so many people, we thought it would be better if everyone were on the same page."

The evening will provide an overview of the security policies in place in Farmington schools. For years, visitors to the schools have had to stop in at the front office, sign in, and take a visitor badge to identify themselves to students and staff. Many of the buildings have been structurally reconfigured so visitors cannot enter with building without first going into the school offices. Those are just a few of the measures already in place, Haugen said.

However, the district's policy is very general, he added. That's not by accident. Each building has certain protocols and safety measures in place, and in some cases, revealing those measures could jeopardize the effectiveness of the security plans.

"We keep it somewhat private for safety reasons. We don't want to give out exactly what we do and how we do it," Haugen said.

All of the principals in Farmington schools met with Haugen after the Dec. 14 shootings. They brought forward concerns they'd heard from parents, and questions they had been asked. Those comments are going to be used as a guideline when it comes to addressing the public Monday.

But security in the schools goes beyond the school doors, too, so Haugen has also met with city administrator Dave McKnight and mayor Todd Larson.

Haugen is developing a panel of local school and law enforcement officials to address questions at the forum. Though the exact membership of the panel is still in the works, Haugen thought to ask school counselors or school resource officers to be part of the panel.

"I think people realize we want everyone to feel comfortable coming into the building. We may not be as aggressive as some would like. Do we need someone armed in front of every school? Do we need to redo our schools so everyone comes into an office? People have all of these questions. Why don't you do this, or why don't we do that. There are all kinds of things they want to know about. Instead of answering one person at a time, we thought it would be nice to get everyone together, and get everyone on the same page," Haugen said.

Another goal of the evening is to reassure parents that schools still are probably the safest places for kids to be. School shootings make big news, Haugen admitted, but the reality is that the incidents do not happen as often as people may think.

Once the forum is over, school officials will review the feedback they received during the event.

"There's always more we can do," Haugen said. "In regards to this, we have things we'll be doing internally. We'll take a look at all of the information, maybe put together a focus group to address some of the issues that come out of it. I think at this point, we'll be collecting information and making decisions based on what we hear.

"A big part of it, too, is gauging the community's interest in the topic. It will be a good night," Haugen said.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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