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Westhill student develops safety plan

December 6, 2018

STAMFORD — Lauren Klym remembers the long line of cars surrounding her middle school as parents clamored to pick up their children in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. One of her teachers lost her godchild that day and in the weeks afterward, her school community came together to discuss the shootings.

“After a situation like that, you talk about it a lot and you get used to living in that world,” said Klym, 17. “Every time something like this happens, we learn from it. But I think we should take that learning and hopefully put it in a good direction.”

When the Parkland shootings occurred in February, Klym was struck by a media interview with one student who said her fears during the massacre were amplified because she had a substitute teacher who was unfamiliar with the classroom.

Klym kept thinking about the interview the next day while driving to a college tour. A week later, she met with her principal, Michael Rinaldi, about how to educate staff and students who are unfamiliar with school lockdown procedures.

Klym generated a checklist of safety procedures for staff members or substitutes in an unfamiliar classroom to use as a guide in an emergency. She also spent the summer drawing floor plans of each Westhill classroom and inputting them into a design program. She then printed and laminated them to be placed in each classroom.

“With the floor plan and the procedure, it’s more for the visual and different kind of reader,” Klym said. “Some people are able to see a floor plan and know how to read it. Some people need that descriptive layout. That’s something that’s special about the plan that it caters to different learning types.”

Rinaldi gave Klym permission to present the ideas to the 175 faculty members at the school. Klym then gathered input from faculty members to customize lockdown procedures for each classroom.

“You don’t know how comfortable a student will be to put their idea out to the entire staff, but she put a PowerPoint together with her plan and crushed it,” Rinaldi said. “She did an absolutely outstanding job sharing her idea and vision with the faculty.”

Klym’s project received approval from the superintendent, Board of Education and police department. Her checklist, which was based off ones she found online combined with updated components, was so impressive that the police requested to use it in all Stamford schools.

“It’s a common sense, no thrills, no frills approach to school security and safety within the school,” Police Youth Bureau Sgt. Joe Kennedy said. “You’re trying to look for simplistic ways of driving home your message and she did it for us.”

Klym customized the checklists, which include reminders such as silencing cellphones during a lockdown, with each school’s colors and mascot.

The floor plans for Westhill take the personalized touch a step further, outlining the layout and features of each room. The plans have been digitized for Westhill to use in the future.

During a recent meeting, the Board of Education acknowledged Klym’s project, which has also become part of her work toward a Girl Scout Gold Award.

“I knew how capable she was and I’ve always been very impressed with her awareness of things and her commitment to her school,” said Rinaldi, who was also Klym’s assistant principal at Rippowam. “I was not prepared for how efficiently and quickly she completed the task. ... Lauren really helped me understand how a student’s time spent in high school can leave a legacy as well.”

erin.kayata@stamfordadvocate.com; (203) 964-2265; @erin_kayata

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