12/14/2012 09:43 EST | Updated 02/13/2013 05:12 EST

Safe school policies in place, Montreal boards reassure parents

Montreal school boards are reassuring parents that all their schools have measures in place to keep children safe, in the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that left 27 dead, including 20 children.

"All doors are locked," said Suanne Stein Day, who chairs the Lester B. Pearson Board on Montreal's West Island. "People have to be buzzed in. There are security cameras on the front doors, so we can see who is asking to enter the school."

She said all staff, from the caretaking team to the secretaries and teachers, know that if they don't recognize someone in the school, they should not hesitate to ask who that person is and who he or she is there to see.

Lockdown drills routine

The schools also perform lockdown drills, much like fire drills, several times during the school year.

"We try to do them in a very sensitive way, based on the age of the kids in the classroom," Stein Day said.

At the English Montreal School Board, spokesman Michael Cohen said its Safe School policy is available on line for parents to peruse.

"It's very, very comprehensive," said Cohen. "It provides schools with the tools to keep their schools safe in every which way, in terms of lockdowns and everything else that is necessary."

"When a tragedy like this happens, a lot of [schools] go back and take a look at it."

The chairwoman of the Marguerite Bourgeoys School Board, Diane Lamarche-Venne, said it is also important not to have too many security measures, which create problems of their own.

"We try to keep a very delicate balance," said Lamarche-Venne. "We just don't want our schools to be transformed into prisons or environments that will scare our students."

Stein Day echoed those sentiments.

"We want our children to wake up in the morning and want to go to school and have fun in their buildings," she said.

"Of course, we want them to be safe. But I wouldn't want to see metal detectors and searches of the children going into the high schools and things like that," Stein Day said.

At the Lester B. Pearson Board, the board also has an emergency system in place to reach parents within 15 minutes of any event, via email, voice mail or text, depending on each parent's preference. Stein Day said the system can be tailored to send messages by classroom, by school, by bus route or system-wide, depending on the event.

Trauma teams on hand

The school boards also have trauma teams of psychologists on hand, trained to help children cope with fear and loss and a wide range of issues.

Stein Day said as more details of the shooting emerge, the board will decide over the weekend how to deploy that team, as needed, for children who need reassurance.