New Canaan School Board Focuses On Security Upgrades

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The New Canaan Board of Education talks about possible security upgrades during Monday's regular meeting. Photo Credit: Melvin Mason
New Canaan High School and other public schools in town may have professional monitors if recommendations from district administrators are implemented. Photo Credit: Melvin Mason

NEW CANAAN, Conn. – Front entrance monitors and communication equipment upgrades are some of the ideas New Canaan Public School officials are considering to shore up building security after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

The New Canaan Board of Education and school administrators discussed recommendations to improve security Monday. The district has been reviewing and upgrading security over the past five to 10 years, school board Chairwoman Alison Bedula said.

But the tragedy in Newtown was “a game changer” that prompted some priorities to be brought on sooner. “Something happened that no one ever thought would happen,” Bedula said. “You have to relook at how you do things.”

The district may add monitors to its staff or hire a security firm, she said. Monitors, who would not carry weapons, would be stationed at desks at school entrances and would ask visitors to sign in, Bedula said. Currently, the district mostly uses volunteer parents at check-in desks at the district’s three elementary schools and Saxe Middle School, and school employees at New Canaan High School. Visitors have to be buzzed in.

The cost of each full-time monitor would be about $40,000, Bedula said. The district would have to ask the town for a special appropriation apart from its operating budget to pay for that staff, she said.

The school district may ask the New Canaan Police Department to hire a second school resource officer for Saxe Middle School, Bedula said. Officer Jason Kim currently works as the resource officer at the high school.

Locks need to be installed immediately in classrooms at the three elementary schools so teachers can lock classroom doors from the inside in an emergency, she said. The district is also looking to improve the public address, video and communications systems at the schools.

“Communications is everything, communication and response,” Superintendent Mary Kolek said. Some of the upgrades can be paid for with reserve capital improvement funds.

The school board gave Kolek more time to review the costs of the recommendations.

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