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Safety top of mind as districts gear up for new school year

As students get ready to head back to the classroom, security is at the forefront of many minds in the aftermath of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Nearly three months after an 18-year-old gunman shot and killed 19 students and two teachers inside a Uvalde, Texas elementary school, kids across the country are getting ready to start a new school year.

And once again, safety and security are top of mind.

“It gives us [time to] pause as a school district to look at what our practices are and comparing that to what their practices are or were and looking to see what can we improve, what can we change?” said Brad Perkins, director of public safety for the Dover Area School District in York County.

Perkins says the Dover administration has had many conversations since the May tragedy, using it as a reminder to go back to safety basics.

"Looking at Uvalde and going ‘Okay, are we locking our doors? Are we making sure things are shut? Are we making sure if somebody sees something, they say something?’” he explained.

Over in Adams County, the Gettysburg Area School District is taking a similar approach.

“Whenever things happen like that, we always take a look and read through after-incident reports and those kinds of things to see if there are things we can incorporate into our own practice," said Dr. Jason Perrin, the district's superintendent of schools.

Both districts are emphasizing a number of security measures that have been in place for years, from locking doors and visitor protocols to practicing drills to maintaining a close relationship with local law enforcement.

“We have very open communication, very open dialogue [with police]," said Perkins. "I encourage their officers not only to come to our buildings during the day but also to train in our buildings.”

The Uvalde shooting shattered confidence nationwide, as there were a number of "systematic failures" by both the school district and police.

Dr. Perrin says making sure both parties are on the same page is critical.

“It’s really about making sure local law enforcement is familiar with our buildings, that they have access to our buildings and it’s understood who’s making decisions," he explained.

Both districts ensure students and parents they are doing everything in their power to keep everyone safe this school year.

“I think schools remain safe places but at the same time safety remains a priority," said Dr. Perrin.

East Pennsboro Area School District in Cumberland County also provided FOX43 with information about how it's approaching discussions surrounding school safety, in the aftermath of the Uvalde shooting.

A district spokesperson says in conjunction with local police, it studied the Texas House of Representatives' Investigative Committee report on the Robb Elementary shooting as part of its annual evaluation and reflection of its local response planning.

The district also re-evaluated its communication and re-unification protocols.

According to a district spokesperson, EPASD schools held a security drill in the fall and spring last school year and have similar plans for this year. 

During these drills, students practice what they would do if there was a dangerous intruder in their school. 

EPASD teaches the concepts endorsed by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. 

At the elementary level, these concepts are presented using a systemic process in a more age-appropriate manner.

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