As students return to school today, the Neosho R-5 School District wants parents to know that the safety of their children is a top priority for the district.

As students return to school today, the Neosho R-5 School District wants parents to know that the safety of their children is a top priority for the district.

District staff held a crisis management workshop on Tuesday, designed to educate or update teachers, staff and administrators on the district's emergency procedures.

Alma Stipp, Neosho R-5 superintendent, said though school safety is a timely issue following the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., Neosho district officials had already planned the work session prior to the tragic event.

Stipp said Tuesday's training was just one of several procedures in place to assure the safety of Neosho students.
"We've had safety drills and procedures in place for over 10 years," Stipp said. "We do take this very seriously."

Tuesday's training focused on six areas: first aid, mental health, security, search and rescue, family reunification and special education.

Each campus in the Neosho school district has an emergency team in place, trained to address any potential crises should they occur.

Those teams, along with the district's current safety plans and procedures, were implemented in 2008, according to a release from the school district.

"The safety of students, staff and patrons of the Neosho School district is of utmost importance to the administrative team and the board of education," district officials said in a prepared statement. "We feel these types of trainings are vital in the preparation for any type of emergency that could take place in Neosho schools."

While it is the practice of all schools in the Neosho district to keep all but the front door of the building locked, safety precautions have been taken a step further at the high school and junior high in the 2012-2013 school year.

Card readers were installed at entrances around the building, requiring students to swipe their identification cards to be allowed access to the building.

An additional doorway was also installed at the entrance of the high school. Now, those visiting the school without an access card must enter through the first set of doors, and check in with an office attendant to be allowed further into the building.

The school district also has a security officer, Dereck Price, on hand at the high school, and a school resource officer, Dustin Whitehill, who is a member of the Neosho Police Department.

Stipp said she believes the presence of the law enforcement officer and security officer adds to the sense of security students feel while at school.

She said security measures are also in place in classrooms across the district.

"Most of the time the classrooms are locked and are in the locked position when open," Stipp said.

She said in addition to Tuesday's training, the schools also hold routine training for students and teachers.

"We had already trained on moving students to a safe place and out of view," Stipp said. "We'll do more of the drills that we've done."

She said she expects students to participate in training early this semester.

Stipp said the district's security drills, including how to respond to an intruder, are done on a regular basis much like fire drills or natural disaster drills.

Stipp said while the Newtown shooting is still on the minds of many parents, she feels comfortable saying that students in the Neosho district are safe when at school.

"If we felt like there was an area that wasn't safe, we would be addressing it," Stipp said. "The safety of our students is of primary importance. Education is our focus but keeping them safe so we can educate them is most important."

She said parents who have additional safety concerns or who would like more information on the district's security measures are welcome to contact their children's school principals or district administrators.

"We're constantly looking at ways to improve security," Stipp said.