PARIS (Reuters) - More than 12 million French children went back to school under heightened security on Thursday after a summer vacation marked by further deadly attacks in a country that is one of the prime targets of Islamic State militants.
Armed police patrolled outside schools around the country as children, parents and teachers converged at entrance gates.
Eight months from elections, the government is under pressure to reassure a wary population of 65 million haunted by the July truck attack in Nice that killed 86 as well as the killing of a priest.
At the Bernard Palissy primary school in Joinville-le-Pont east of Paris, extra security measures included a blanket ban on parents entering school buildings and the presence of local police at opening time.
“The difference is we can unfortunately no longer access the school,” said Faiza Teaboui, whose young son was going to school for the first time.
“But I tell myself that it is a very positive thing because it means no unknown adult can get in. You never know, security is very important for the town and our children above all. It’s important to feel reassured.”
Olivier Dosne, mayor of Joinville-le-Pont, said a budget of 100,000 euros ($111,000) had been allocated to improve school security.
Some of that funded installation of one-way glass at school entrances to prevent outsiders peering in. More was being spent on evacuation and crisis-containment training for school staff in line with nationwide guidelines.
“They will have more equipment such as whistles, walkie-talkies, intercoms,” Dosne said.
Another directive to school directors is that they arrange training in first-aid and life-saving drills for pupils and staff, as well as training in how to respond under attack - such as hiding and staying silent.
The spate of killings over the past few months took place despite emergency rule imposed after attacks last November in which Islamist militants killed 130 people in and near Paris.
That attack stunned the country, already on edge after Islamist militants in January 2015 killed 17 people, most of them at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper and a kosher supermarket.
The Islamic State group, whose strongholds in Syria and Iraq are being bombed by French jets, has called on its followers to attack in France, notably its secular state schools.
Reporting by Lucien Libert and Clotaire Achi; Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Geert De Clercq