The tragedy at Newtown reverberated through the Cobleskill-Richmondville school board meeting Monday night.
About 80 worried parents, students and others pressed for tighter security at C-R's schools in light of the Newtown shootings.
Board members and administrators anticipated the turnout and invited Cobleskill Police Chief Larry Travis and BOCES Health and Safety Coordinator Tim Murphy to the meeting.
"We know there are anxieties out there," said board President Bruce Tryon. "We just want to listen. We won't have answers tonight."
More deeply concerned than angry, parents took the opportunity to raise questions about C-R building security and emergency procedures.
Parent Jennifer Gerken pointed to an issue repeated by many: That anyone can walk into a school without being challenged for ID.
All C-R buildings have a main office right by the entrance, "but if I'm going to do something, I'm not going to stop at the office," Ms. Gerken said.
"I know we live in a small town," she told the board, "but it's not like when you and I went to school."
Ms. Gerkin also wondered about security at bus transfers, when students from Radez switch buses at Ryder and Golding. A driver "lost track" of her daughter one day, she said.
"I don't know the procedures, and I think we should know," Ms. Gerken said.
Debbie Martin echoed those words.
"We need to know what's in place to protect our children," she said. "This isn't the time for discussion groups and committee meetings."
Jason Drobnack noted that the building he works in is more secure than C-R schools.
"We're not going to stop everyone from having a gun," he said, "but we can stop everyone with a gun from getting to our kids."
Responding, Mr. Murphy explained that C-R has training and drills at the district and building levels, including lockdown and lockout drills and table-top exercises replicating emergencies.
But he prefaced his words by saying times have changed.
"We have re-defining moments in history, and Newtown would be one of those," Mr. Murphy said.
Parents agreed, and several offered suggestions.
Frederick Dudash, who has three grandchildren at C-R, offered a detailed plan for the district to hire retired police officers for security.
A retired New York City police officer himself, Mr. Dudash suggested the officers have radios, randomly watch entrances, check illegally parked vehicles, check locks, maintain communications with Cobleskill Police and school administrators--and carry guns.
"I know a lot of people will get a little hairy about that, but these officers have been trained to carry guns all their lives," Mr. Dudash said.
He also urged that C-R give building floor plans to police and constantly update emergency call lists.
"Hell happens when you least expected it. Be prepared," Mr. Dudash said, to applause.
Others also suggested hiring officers and increasing training and security, even if such measures meant higher taxes. Like other schools, C-R is hurting financially, but parents want something done.
"We can't let money dictate the safety of our children," one man said. "If it takes donations or private funding, people will do it."
After nearly 90 minutes, school officials thanked the audience and said action would be coming.
"We're not definite about what our next step will be, but there will be a next step,' Mr. Tryon said.
Superintendent Lynn Macan agreed.
"If the world is changing and we're not changing with it, we're doing a disservice to our students," she said.
"Safety of our students is foremost in the minds of every employee in this school district."