Area schools beef up building security
Updated 11:13 pm, Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Private security in Danbury elementary schools. Emergency alert buttons in Brookfield schools. A new police officer dedicated to the Bethel school campus. School cameras hooked up to the New Milford Police Department.
Danbury Superintendent Sal Pascarella, Mayor Mark Boughton and Police Chief Al Baker will attend a 7 p.m. meeting Thursday at Broadview Middle School where residents can discuss security in the city's 17 schools.
"We will look at our school crisis plans based on new information," Pascarella said. "We will look at the needs, building-wise, and also if more human staff are needed. It will absolutely include more staff training."
Baker will evaluate school lockdown drills to see how they can be improved, he said.
This fall, the school district added a police officer and a safety advocate at the two middle schools, Pascarella said. There have been officers and advocates at the high school for years.
For the immediate future, the district has hired a private security firm to staff the elementary schools with unarmed officers, Pascarella said.
The district's crises intervention plans must now incorporate new strategies, he said. "You have to be as cognizant of all these new approaches and be as proactive as you can."
In Brookfield, steps are under way to form a townwide Public Safety Committee to look at all the public buildings, but school officials already made some changes to their buildings.
For one, multiple emergency alert buttons were installed in all schools and the district's central office in the last two weeks, Superintendent Anthony Bivona said Wednesday.
In addition, portable police radios will be provided by the Brookfield Police Department to all schools by Friday.
The district amended its protocols for visitors accessing schools, Bivona said, and added at the high school the voice interactive buzz-in system in place at the other schools.
Each school will have a vestibule with a second set of security doors. Visitors will be screened by staff at a window in the vestibule and then buzzed into the building.
It means visitors won't enter the main office unless by appointment.
All exterior doors will be locked at all times.
Bivona said he will install card-access door control systems that would provide staff access to selected doors, and new 3M security film will be added to vestibule and main office windows to hold shattered glass in place and help prevent entry, injury or damage.
"These are all deterrents. Everyone, across the state and the country, is looking to enhance security,'' Bivona said. "Our schools were not meant to be prisons. They're community buildings, but we'll do everything we can to tighten security."
The Bethel school district has a Board of Education subcommittee to ensure security reflects best current practices, and sent out a community newsletter Wednesday outlining increased security on its five-school campus.
Superintendent Kevin Smith said Wednesday that three days after the shooting, the district's security provider audited the buildings. The district has added a buzz-in system at the high school, which it already had at the other schools, and all doors are locked.
In addition to a full-time police officer in the high school and a part-time youth officer with increased time in the lower schools, the police department now has a full-time officer patrolling the school complex all day, Smith said.
In addition, for now, a police officer is assigned to each of the four lower schools to monitor arrivals and dismissals.
As a result of the audit, the district also will look to add alert buttons like the ones that Brookfield installed, more security cameras and alarms on exterior doors, Smith said.
"This has to be an all-hazards approach,'' he said. "It has to be a comprehensive and measured approach."
One initiative will be for police officers to visit all six schools to talk to faculty about the crisis emergency plans next week, Paddyfote said.
The district is curtailing visitors in buildings, which have video/buzzer entry systems, she said.
There is an officer in every building all day, she said, for now and the district is in the process of connecting all the cameras in the schools with the police department.
In addition, the district is looking at alarms on its exterior school doors and considering other entry systems, Paddyfote said.