Mayor Mark Lauretti said concerns about the extent of security improvements to be made at Long Hill School will be addressed.
“There will be a second set of doors,” Lauretti assured family members who spoke about their concerns during the public speaking portion of last week’s Board of Aldermen meeting.
Family members want Long Hill School to get a second set of doors with locks and a card-reader at the entrance, as is planned for two other older elementary school buildings when security renovations are made in the near future.
Initial plans had been to handle Long Hill’s entrance differently from those at Mohegan and Elizabeth Shelton schools due to the design of the Long Hill building.
But parents and others have spoken to the aldermen and Public Improvement Building Committee members about their worries, and their pleas now appear to be getting the desired response.
Provide time in an emergency
At the March 12 aldermanic meeting, four family members of Long Hill students spoke about the need for the school their young family members attend to get the same security improvements as the other two schools.
Long Hill parent Jennifer Sanborn said a second set of doors and second card-reader could be crucial during an emergency. Holding back a possible intruder, “even if for a minute, or a minute and a half,” would give school staff critical time, she said.
Sanborn said the Long Hill School community’s concerns also have been raised with Board of Education (BOE) officials. “I believe the BOE is fully aware of this,” she said.
Another mother as well as a grandmother and a great-grandfather also spoke about their worries to the aldermen, saying the Long Hill community just wants what the other two older education facilities will get.
They said the cost to upgrade Long Hill due to design challenges shouldn’t be factor, because the safety of students and staff must come first.
Architect involved in project
After they spoke, Lauretti said he had been at Long Hill School earlier in the week with School Supt. Freeman Burr and the architect overseeing the security improvements, and the school will get the desired second set of security doors.
Alderman Jack Finn said he supports making whatever changes are needed at Long Hill School.
As a member of the White Hills Voluntary Fire Company who helps with traffic control, Finn said, he’d been part of the overall response at Sandy Hook Elementary School “and I don’t ever want to see that again.”
Adding a vestibule
Burr said a vestibule — or hallway entrance — could be built in the front of Long Hill School to put in a new set of doors to create a manway, which is an indoor area between doorways.
Having two sets of doors with entry-card readers would make it more difficult for someone who shouldn’t be there to get inside the school, and theoretically also could provide a place to trap an intruder by locking both sets of doors when an unwanted visitor is inside this area.
Burr said a vestibule would need to be built into the ground, below the frostline, to prevent structural shifts over time that could impact the security of the doors.
He said progress is being made on the project. “I think we’re well on our way with architectural plans,” he said.
“The biggest thing is providing peace of mind for parents,” Burr said.
The city owns school buildings
While the Board of Education operates the schools, the buildings are owned by the city.
The Public Improvement Building Committee is a permanent volunteer group set up to oversee certain upgrades to municipal and school buildings. It is overseeing the planned security improvements at Long Hill, Mohegan and Elizabeth Shelton schools.
New building projects lead to the appointment of special building committees for individual projects.