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New Canaan school leaders outline minor security changes

Published 4:37 pm, Wednesday, January 9, 2013
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In response to the mass shooting in Newtown on Dec. 14, New Canaan schools continued to fine-tune its security protocols, including visitor check-ins and communication, at its Board of Education meeting on Monday, Jan. 7, but decided against major changes, should they be warranted, until a professional audit is performed.

"Over the course of the past several weeks all of us have been reminded of the importance of safety and security," said Schools Superintendent Dr. Mary Kolek. "School climate and school culture are things we really have to pay attention to."

Kolek explained that teachers are now recording when visitors will be coming to their classrooms.

In addition to that, the school is looking to hire professionals to welcome visitors to the schools. When visitors enter the middle and elementary schools now, they are greeted by a volunteer.

She said she believes this is insufficient, and would prefer someone with experience and training to fill this role of first contact in the schools.

"We're asking for and recommending that campus monitors be included particularly at elementary and middle schools," she said, adding that the district will look at the job description at the high school.

The emergency policies have been crafted over more than 10 years by the district's Crisis Advisory Board, which includes members from each of the schools, the head of facilities and technology, and police, fire and emergency management officials.

The school system would like to acquire new safety equipment in the coming months, including an antenna and radios, and to institute a visitor badge system.

At West School, the communications can be spotty and the addition of an antenna would make it easier for teachers and administrators to communicate across the campus.

The same goes for radios and signal boosters, Kolek said.

"Rob (Miller, technology director) has taken a look at any technology we could use. There's a visitor badge system for $10,000 we could use to do a background check fairly rapidly and make a photo ID (for visitors)," Kolek said at the meeting.

The administration made clear that it believed its students are safe now and will not run into any changes. They must still wrestle with the balance of a secure school environment and one that is inviting and welcoming.

The expected total cost of the changes and additions would be about $72,000. BOE member Jim Kucharczyk suggested that the school could go to the town to request that money as a special appropriation, but Kolek said that she and Finance Director Joe Meehan would look to see if they could find at least some of money within the schools' budget.

twoods@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4413; @Woods_NCNews