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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Back to school spells new security systems and procedures at Nashua schools

NASHUA – The first day of school was one of learning for all at Dr. Norman Crisp Elementary School.

While new kindergartners were in their classrooms, meeting their teachers and talking about the year ahead, their parents were in the school cafeteria with Principal Jane Quigley discussing dismissal procedures and new school security features. ...

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NASHUA – The first day of school was one of learning for all at Dr. Norman Crisp Elementary School.

While new kindergartners were in their classrooms, meeting their teachers and talking about the year ahead, their parents were in the school cafeteria with Principal Jane Quigley discussing dismissal procedures and new school security features.

“We try to just get them up to speed on the school,” Quigley said.

Students throughout the city went back to school Tuesday, and many were greeted with new security systems and procedures, which Quigley explained to parents.

Gone from city schools, and many others in the region, are the days of parents walking freely into the school, bringing students to their classrooms or visiting them at lunch.

Instead, all visitors to the school must now use an intercom system to communicate with office staff before being allowed through the main doors, a change enacted last spring. They must check in at the office, sign in and wear a visitor’s badge at all times.

Superintendent Mark Conrad said these security features were more relaxed on the first day at many schools, allowing some time with the main entrances unlocked to allow parents to attend events such as kindergarten orientation and open houses. Once the flow of parents slowed down, however, Conrad said the schools were locked up.

“I think it was a little bit more flexible,” he said. “But people are very understanding. Parents are very appreciative of having security in place. And our secretaries have really stepped up to the plate in expecting the interruptions that happen” with the new procedures.

Going forward, parents will have to consistently follow the increased safety protocols, Quigley told parents Tuesday.

They must not let another parent walk in behind them through the main doors, she said. Each visitor needs to use the intercom system.

“You’re not being rude,” she said. “You’re keeping your children safe.”

Parents and community members can expect other security changes in the months ahead as a $2.01 million security project is completed at all city schools.

The upgrades, including key card access for teachers and additional cameras, should be completed by the end December. The Board of Education’s Policy Committee is working on a districtwide set of safety procedures to match the new devices.

In addition to new locks and intercoms, there were some good old back to school traditions to be seen.

Conrad and both assistant superintendents made their way around the city Tuesday, visiting all of the city’s schools. And freshmen at Nashua High School South got an early visit from Gov. Maggie Hassan, who also visited students in Laconia and Moultonborough on Tuesday.

At Dr. Crisp, teachers were helping students with reading, and talking about their adventures over their summer break.

First-grade teacher Lynne Lamontagne brought her class into the school cafeteria to talk about how to behave during the class lunchtime. With the help of another staff member, she showed students how to pick a seat at a table, sit down quietly, and wait to be called to the lunch line.

They practiced walking to the line and selecting foods offered by cafeteria staff, carrying out pretend trays of food before heading back to their seats.

The same lessons will begin at other area schools a day later, including those in Hollis, Brookline, Amherst, Milford and Mont Vernon, which open Wednesday. Hudson, Litchfield and Merrimack schools are waiting until after the holiday weekend to open.

Students in Nashua will attend classes Wednesday and Thursday, with Friday and Monday off for the Labor Day holiday weekend. Classes resume Tuesday, Sept. 3.

“So far, I think it’s been a very positive opening to the year,” Conrad said Tuesday afternoon. “There have really been no major concerns that have surfaced. Our schools were ready, and the students seemed happy to be back with their teachers.”

Danielle Curtis can be reached
at 594-6557 or dcurtis@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Curtis on Twitter (@Telegraph_DC).