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Jefferson superintendent says schools safe during talks

December 30, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Parents of children attending two Shepherdstown-area schools should not be concerned about possible terrorism threats to the schools during peace talks here between Syria and Israel next week, a Jefferson County Schools spokeswoman said Thursday.

School officials received a handful of calls from parents Thursday asking if they should send their children to Shepherdstown Junior High School and Shepherdstown Elementary School next week when the talks begin at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, schools spokeswoman Liz Thompson said.

After meeting Thursday with a U.S. Secret Service agent in charge of security for the talks, school officials emphasized that they want parents to send their youngsters to school next week.

"The Secret Service does not expect the talks to disrupt school activities in any way, and they have suggested that we operate schools as we would any other day," Superintendent David W. Markoe said in a news release.

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Markoe said the Secret Service expects demonstrations to be held outside the Clarion, but demonstrators will be kept off school property.

The system will press trespassing charges against any unauthorized person found on school property, Markoe said.

Mayor Vince Parmesano said that because of the schools' proximity to the Clarion, some town residents are concerned that any possible terrorist acts or protests at the Clarion could spill over to the property of the two schools, which are about a quarter of a mile away.

To ease fears, police will be stationed in the vicinity of the schools 24 hours a day until the talks are over, Parmesano said Wednesday.

Thompson said school officials talked with the U.S. Secret Service on Thursday. A Secret Service agent requested that a deputy be available to patrol the vicinity of the schools, Thompson said.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said the fear of terrorism associated with the talks is an overreaction.

There have never been any terrorist attacks at the site of peace talks in the past, the spokesman said.

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