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Franklin Regional tragedy prompts Penn-Trafford to review safety plans

| Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

For the second time in 15 months, Penn-Trafford school officials will reassess their emergency plans because of a mass attack on students.

The first review was after a December 2012 attack resulted in 26 deaths in a Connecticut elementary school. This one is prompted by a sorrow far closer to home.

Penn-Trafford administrators pitched in at Franklin Regional Senior High School on April 9 after, according to police, a 16-year-old boy's knife attack left 21 students and a security guard with injuries.

Superintendent Matt Harris, high school Principal Scott Inglese and business manager Brett Lago helped with the process of connecting students with their parents at Heritage Elementary School after Franklin Regional officials evacuated the high school.

Inglese, who will take over as assistant superintendent this summer, said officials will reconvene their crisis team because of the stabbings at Franklin Regional. They did the same after the fatal shootings of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn.

“It was certainly an eye-opener to us, and a valuable learning experience for us,” Inglese said of helping at Franklin Regional.

Like its neighboring district, Penn-Trafford doesn't have metal detectors at the high school, which will be undergoing a two-year remodeling that district officials capped at $32 million.

Though metal detectors aren't in the construction plans, officials are prioritizing the installation of a new gravel, gated road off Warrior Court to provide access to emergency vehicles.

The frenzy at Franklin Regional reinforced the need for that road, Inglese said. If an emergency were to happen at Penn-Trafford when a lot of buses were on campus — as was the case with the morning rampage in Murrysville — the road would bypass a logjammed entrance off Route 130.

“That emergency access is very critical,” Inglese said.

District administrators met with Penn Township police Chief John Otto Tuesday morning and are scheduled to meet with him again on April 28, Harris said. All but one of the district's seven school buildings are in Penn Township.

Otto's department gained first-hand experience when officers attended to Franklin Regional stabbing victims, directed traffic and helped to secure the campus during last week's crisis, but the situation wasn't an entirely foreign experience. Officers trained for critical incidents in 2012 and 2013.

Otto credited Franklin Regional officials for having a good relationship with local police and emergency services so first-responders could do their jobs quickly to prevent any fatalities.

“Some of the kids were injured quite severely, but because things happened as fast as they did, we're looking at an optimistic situation instead of ‘what-iffing' it,” Otto said.

“This event, as unfortunate as it was, showed how well things can turn out when people have training, utilize the training, work together and share resources.”

In the coming weeks, Harris said, district officials also will meet with police in Manor and Trafford and other emergency-service agencies.

Trafford Mayor Rey Peduzzi, a retired Penn-Trafford principal, said borough officials have been proactive by arranging to have Trafford police tour the Trafford Schools complex so they are familiar with the building.

“When they do the critique of that episode in relation to how prepared we are, we're going to be in involved with that,” Peduzzi said.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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