Woonsocket to conduct school safety audits, build secure high school entrance

Blackstone Valley

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Woonsocket’s school committee will form a special security subcommittee and conduct school building audits in the wake of the deadly shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Superintendent Patrick McGee made the recommendations at Wednesday night’s school committee meeting, where he also briefed committee members on an incident at Hamlet Middle School on Feb. 16 involving bullets found in a bathroom.

Three students have now been arrested in the wake of that incident, which turned out not to be connected to any threat. Police said a janitor found the bullets in a boy’s bathroom, and a 13-year-old girl simultaneously yelled something about how there was going to be a school shooting.

The girl was arrested for disorderly conduct, and two 13-year-old boys were arrested for possession of ammunition. One of the boys is also facing a disorderly conduct charge.

The incident happened two days after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where 17 people died. McGee said he was in a meeting with police about school safety when he got the call about the bullets found.

“You think the worst, but you hope for the best,” he said of his initial reaction as he rushed to the school.

Police locked down the school and searched it, and found no weapons.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, McGee suggested forming a subcommittee to specifically address security matters, and said audits would be conducted at all school buildings to determine what improvements can be made.

“I want people out in the community to know that the schools in Woonsocket are safe,” he said. “However, we are always looking at upgrading what we have.”

The school district is already planning an upgrade to the main entrance at Woonsocket High School, where a new “secure vestibule” will be constructed inside the entrance. Visitors will need to speak to a security officer through a reinforced glass window before being buzzed in.

The project costs $450,000, with the state reimbursing Woonsocket 88% of the cost.

“I would love to do things like this in all of our schools,” McGee said. “My goal is to make every school as safe and secure as possible.”

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