School officials, mayor at odds over school security film project

School Supt. Freeman Burr, left, shows a security film-coated window that withstood gun shots and other damage to the Board of Aldermen, with school Finance Director Al Cameron at his side.
School Supt. Freeman Burr, left, shows a security film-coated window that withstood gun shots and other damage to the Board of Aldermen, with school Finance Director Al Cameron at his side.

The school superintendent calls it “a no-brainer,” but Mayor Mark Lauretti isn’t so sure it makes sense to put security film on glass windows and doors at five of the city’s public schools.

School Supt. Freeman Burr recently told Board of Education (BOE) members the plan to install the security ballistic film on window surfaces is “on hold” due to Lauretti’s reluctance to provide the needed funds on the city side.

“I can’t say he’s receptive,” Burr said of Lauretti while speaking at the most recent BOE meeting. “He didn’t say no ... My feeling is it’s a no-brainer.”

It would cost about $65,000 to install the security film — a thin layer of material placed over glass surfaces — at Booth Hill, Sunnyside, Perry Hill, Shelton Intermediate and Shelton High schools. Bids from private firms have been received for the project.

Slowing down an intruder is the goal

The security film, combined with stainless steel wire mesh that also would be used, is designed to slow down an intruder by making it much harder to gain access inside by smashing a window with everything from bullets to a pick axe.

“The goal is to introduce a time delay for an intruder,” said BOE Finance Director Allan Cameron, who has been helping to oversee school security projects.

Burr said the BOE security director and Shelton police have recommended using the security film, noting they conducted tests on how windows with the film would hold up to various weapons. Cameron said the state recommends use of the film as an option for upgrading security at schools.

The security film and wire mesh would only be used at five schools because the city’s other three schools — Long Hill, Mohegan and Elizabeth Shelton — are expected to undergo more substantial security upgrades in the next year or so.

Mayor: ‘I’m not convinced’

Lauretti said he’s unsure if the security film is the right way to go. “I’m not sure that’s the right application,” he said.

“I’m not convinced, but I’ll do my research and am open to learning more about it,” Lauretti said.

He said if BOE officials feel strongly about the project, they can find the needed funds in their own budget. “If they want it, they should use money in their own budget,” he said.

Security cameras being installed

The security film/wire mesh project is one of three school security projects now in the works. All are essentially being done in reaction to the Newtown school shooting in December 2012 that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.

Shelton parents have been pressing school and city officials to move forward with the security enhancements.

One project, to install new surveillance camera systems in the five elementary schools, is making progress. A contract has been signed with the vendor to do the work, and some initial wiring work now is being done.

The state-of-the art camera systems will be digital-based and offer vantage points both inside and outside the buildings.

Fortifying entrances

The other project, to fortify entrances and replace doors and windows at the three oldest elementary schools, is in the initial stages.

An engineering and architectural firm has been hired to oversee the so-called three-school project, but an initial hurdle will be conducting an environmental review of potential issues with asbestos, PCBs and lead paint in the structures.

Burr said Lauretti has agreed to hire an outside consultant to do the environmental reviews, and not much can be done on the engineering and architectural side until that review is completed.

This project involves Long Hill, Mohegan and Elizabeth Shelton schools.

Lauretti has been strongly supportive of the three-school project, but notes it is more extensive and will require state approvals due to partial funding reimbursement.

The mayor has said he wanted to make some of these same improvements as far back as 2008, claiming school officials never pushed forward. “I can’t fix their buildings for them,” Lauretti said at what he perceives as delays.