By Elizabeth F. McNamara
Editor’s Note: This story has been amended since it first posted.
Following the deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school Wednesday, Supt. Victor Mercurio and EGHS Principal Michael Podraza sent out emails to the school community outlining just what is being done in East Greenwich schools to protect against such an incident here.
“… Our first priority is to create and maintain a safe and supportive environment at all of the East Greenwich Public Schools,” Mercurio wrote in his email, which went out to all families in the district. (Read the full letter here: Parent Support Letter.)
Principal Podraza’s letter (which was signed by other high school administrators) was more of a call to action.
“We ask that all members of the EGHS community take time to reflect and reaffirm our commitment to take all actions necessary to keep everyone at EGHS both safe and supported,” it read. (Read the full letter here: Letter to EGHS 2/15/2018.)
The email asks students if they are worried about any other students and tells them, for instance, to not let people into the high school without going through the main entrance. It tells parents who to contact if they are worried about their child’s wellbeing or that of another student.
“We know that taking some of the actions listed above might be uncomfortable. However, we believe that the feelings of being uncomfortable pale in comparison to the weight of emotion one would feel if tragedy strikes and one could have taken action, yet didn’t,” the email reads.
These emails come one week after rumors of potential violence at EGHS prompted a wave of anxiety to sweep through the Facebook page, East Greenwich Parents for Excellence.
Eventually, Principal Podraza issued an email to families to address the issue:
We have been made aware of rumors circulating around various social media platforms about the existence of a video alleging a threat to East Greenwich High School. Upon receiving word of the post, the East Greenwich Police Department was immediately notified. We take any and all information given to us by concerned members of our school community very seriously and turn any information over to the East Greenwich Police Department for investigation. While the East Greenwich Police Department’s initial review did not conclude any threat to the high school, the East Greenwich Police continue to conduct a complete and thorough investigation of this matter. Please know that the safety of our students and staff here at East Greenwich High School is our top priority, and all threats are taken seriously. If through the course of the investigation any information is brought to light were violations of the EGPS behavior code or RI State laws have occurred we will all appropriate and required actions.
School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark said Thursday said she wanted the community to know the district has been working hard to make EG schools safer.
“The work didn’t start in the last couple of weeks. it’s been going on for several years now,” she said. She acknowledged that the community deserved more information about what the district is doing and said some of that work can be seen in the changes to the fronts of schools across the district. Hanaford was the last school to get a renovated entrance with a buzzer system and visibility to see who is at the entrance – that work was finished just this past fall.
“There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes too,” said Mark, work that won’t be made public for safety reasons.
She said new safety measures (including new drills) should be in place by the end of the school year and that the district would be working harder to communicate with families.
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