Schools discuss security upgrades, priorities
Talks about security improvement began immediately after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December. Police, the fire marshal and city building inspector have conducted safety inspections of all school buildings and made recommendations. Burr presented the update to the Board of Education Wednesday night.
“One thing we all took from the security symposium is that the goal with all intruders is to delay them,” Burr said.
The district is looking into 12-mil clear security window film or stainless steel mesh to cover windows near entrances at Sunnyside, Booth Hill School, Shelton High School, Shelton Intermediate and Perry Hill. The security film will not stop a bullet, Burr said, but it will stop the glass from shattering. Board of Education Chair Mark Holden showed a clip of a video used at a recent security symposium. It showed two men with sledgehammers trying to break through an entrance covered with the film. It took 17 minutes for them to get in. Board member Jay Francino-Quinn likened the film to what is used on car windshields, preventing windshields from shattering.
Police have recommended the 12-mil film but Burr said the district is investigating even stronger security films.
“This can be installed by our own people,” Burr said.
The Public Improvement Building Committee, a city committee, is expediting the process to get new entry and exterior doors at Elizabeth Shelton, Long Hill and Mohegan Elementary School.
It was determined those three buildings needed it most, Burr said.
“Sunnyside is one of our more secure buildings,” he said.
Burr said Mayor Mark Lauretti is behind getting the entryways replaced. Lauretti said Thursday that the city has always been committed to replacing doors and windows of schools, but the Newtown tragedy is causing officials to expedite the process.
“Those are the most vulnerable schools right now and it became a priority for me,” Lauretti said.
The district is also making it a priority to add security cameras to more areas outside of schools, including obscure spots where someone may hide. The mayor said the city will support schools in making upgrades.
“This Sandy Hook tragedy broke new ground and caused our entire country to rethink our position on school security,” Lauretti said. “In addition to creating redundancies on entryways we will enhance our technology for surveillance and things like that.”
Lauretti said he won’t necessarily be adding money for security upgrades to the school budget in his upcoming recommendation, but rather putting city funds toward some of the changes.
“This will come from outside their budget — I don’t believe that’s a responsibility they need to take,” Lauretti said of the district. “These kids belong to all of us. The city will make a commitment.”
Shelton Intermediate School will be moving to key card access in a few weeks and the superintendent would like to see all schools eventually move to that system, eliminating normal keys and locks.
The district is also looking into installing panic buttons in schools and upgrading all doors to have interior locks.
Shelton Police have encouraged the schools to run drills during all times of the day, so students and staff know what to do if they are at lunch, recess, in the gym or in the classroom during an emergency.
Police have discussed regional response with nearby police departments, the superintendent said. So, for example, if there was an incident at Booth Hill School, Trumbull Police may be able to arrive first, Burr said.
Burr said that new technology isn’t the only answer to a safer school. Staff and visitors have to be aware that they are responsible for school security as well.
“We can have state-of-the-art security put in but if people leave doors open, that security is compromised,” Burr said.
Assistant Superintendent Lorraine Rossner said Shelton Police have are still doing “walk and talk” visits to schools on a regular basis and offered additional support.
“They’ve offered their services to any school who wants to practice an intruder drill with them there,” Rossner said. “To offer comment on issues that could be done differently.”
Burr said the district is not planning to add extra security personnel at schools but that may change, based on state and federal response to school security. The state has discussed setting $30 million aside for school security.
“Thirty-million, state-wide is not a heck of a lot,” Holden said.
The Newtown tragedy will likely impact the design of new schools, Burr said.
“Historically, schools are not designed to keep people out,” he said.
Burr said staff can’t afford to become complacent about security as time passes.
“That’s not a luxury we, as professionals, can afford anymore,” he said.