During a recent tour of Shelton Intermediate School (SIS), U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he was impressed by the school’s “general awareness and focus on school safety.”
“I learned about what they are doing in the wake of the Newtown tragedy and what they need to do moving forward,” Blumenthal said of the school that serves seventh and eighth graders.
He described SIS as being “fairly advanced in comparison to other schools. I was impressed by the staff and the school resource officer (SRO).”
Blumenthal has been visiting schools around the state to promote proposed school security legislation on the federal level that he supports.
Shown enhancements that have been made
Kenneth D. Saranich, SIS headmaster, said Blumenthal was shown some of the security enhancements that have been made at the school and what could be done in the future.
“Funding is an issue, and we appreciate the senator’s efforts to get funds,” Saranich said.
Blumenthal was able to speak with a few teachers and students during his visit. School Supt. Freeman Burr and Asst. School Supt. Lorraine Rossner also were present for the tour.
Swipe cards now in use
There is a keyless swipe-card system to enter SIS. Only full-time staff members have the cards. Students all enter at 8 a.m. and should not leave the building until school is over unless they are accompanied by a parent or other adult.
State and local police recently conducted a study of Shelton school buildings as part of an audit, and Saranich some changes were made based on their comments. This includes locking certain internal doors and moving the front desk to improve sight lines.
Saranich expects to receive a more thorough written audit report as well.
Some of the potential improvements at SIS include creating a sally-port at the main entrance by putting locks on the interior set of doors, making the camera survellance system digital, and adding internal cameras.
Also, having video monitor screens in multiple locations so anyone — not just a limited number of staff members — could observe them and report problems.
Sees federal role in school security
Blumenthal is a co-sponsor of the Secure Our Schools bill that would provide federal funds for equipment such as lighting, alarms, cameras, monitoring equipment and swipe cards. He said many measures can be made at a minimal cost.
The bill would provide $40 million nationwide through Oct. 1, and he said he would move to allocate more money in the future.
He also supports providing money to local school districts for SROs, but leaving the decision whether to have them to local offficials. “These decisions should be made locally,” he said.
Blumenthal said some of the cost for SROs can be borne by towns and cities since the officers are part of the regular police force.
In addition to their security role, he said, SROs “have been extremely impportant in mentoring, counseling and serving as role models. They are much more than trained officers at the door stopping intrudors and other problems.”