Monday morning in Hoboken, parents walked their children to school, just like any other Monday, except of course, it’s not. Today, parents here were more aware of school security protocols and questioning whether they are enough.
“Obviously, as we just learned, anything can happen,” said Mercedes Engels, of Hoboken. “I think we need to reevaluate a lot of things on how we get them to school; how safe is the environment for them to be there; how other people get in whether it be maintenance people, or just other people that are associated with parents or teachers.”
Hoboken is a small district where school violence is rare, but one school board member here thinks it’s time for an armed deterrent. Carmelo Garcia says there must be a more robust first line of defense.
“What I would like to see is bringing back police officers within the school, what we call the SRO, school resources officers, but who are at the entrance of the school, really your first measure of screening,” said Garcia. “And I think that is a very powerful instrument to really help in providing that safety.”
But in Harrington park, where there’s just the one elementary school, Superintendent Adam Fried says he’s not sure he’d go that far. “I’m not sure that’s the answer, but it’s definitely something you have to talk about,” said Fried.
Like leaders in almost all of the state’s school districts, Fried met with teachers and staff and even the police chief today, talking about every option, even armed security. All of the classes in this 630-student school have emergency management kits, complete with food, water and first aid kits, in case of a lock down or evacuation in a worst case scenario.
When asked what his biggest fear is as a superintendent, Fried said, “I think we just saw that Friday, an active shooter. Everyone one of us, administrators, and staff members, that is the dream we have that brings the biggest fear. How do we handle that situation? What do we do in that moment?”
All this prep can be overwhelming for parents, who struggle even under the best of circumstances to strike a balance between being extra cautious and letting their kids be kids. Parent Andrea Rizvi says she’s dealt with that all weekend long.
“My younger three children, no, they’re under 9. My oldest child is in middle school I have spoken with him because he’s ready to handle it,” she says when asked if she’s discussed the events in Connecticut with her children. “I don’t see the value in scaring them. They need to go to school and learn and feel happy and comfortable there.”
Statistically, school is probably the safest place your child can be but any parent will tell you that dropping their child off in the morning is a leap of faith. In light of events in Connecticut last Friday, it will be some time before that becomes routine again.