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Security beefed up at New Canaan schools

Updated 10:13 am, Saturday, July 13, 2013
  • The Board of Education's newest member, Sheri West, asks a question at Monday night's meeting. Photo: Tyler Woods
    The Board of Education's newest member, Sheri West, asks a question at Monday night's meeting. Photo: Tyler Woods

 

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Security at New Canaan's five public schools is as tight and up-to-date as it's ever been, according to school officials at Monday night's Board of Education meeting.

"We've reviewed our plans based on emerging best practices," Jane Rocco, Crisis Advisory Board chairman and South Elementary School principal, said at the meeting. "We've updated all protocols and procedures in the crisis manual."

The Crisis Advisory Board is a collection of town leaders that determines procedures for the schools in the event of crises. It includes school administrators, police officers, firefighters and more.

The two primary upgrades the district has made are the installation of new locks, as well as hiring five campus monitors -- one at each elementary school and two at Saxe Middle School -- for which the Town Council appropriated $133,690 at a contentious February meeting.

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Gary Kass said the monitors have allowed teachers, who had been taking turns monitoring the buildings' entrances, to return to the classrooms.

"I believe it worked out very well over the last six weeks of school. It's helped us to improve school safety by increasing communications," Kass said at the meeting. "I've received many positive comments from students, parents and staff members."

He noted further that the logs the monitors kept revealed a significant number of safety issues during the final six weeks of school the monitors were installed.

"(The public) should anticipate the school district and town to make requests for physical plant upgrades, campus monitors and resources such as restoring the school resource officer to Saxe," NCHS Assistant Principal Veronica LeDuc said in her presentation.

Physical plant upgrades in the form of technology are also a part of the security improvements. NCPS Technology Director Rob Miller explained that upgraded video surveillance is partially complete and that the identification system at the front desk of the buildings' entrances is "in place and being used on a daily basis by the campus monitors." The ID systems take a photo of visitors and print out a sticker, similar to what is done at office buildings in Manhattan.

Board of Education member Scott Gress sounded one note of concern, which was that the success of the measures already taken had not been publicized enough.

"When we went before to Town Council, we had a hard time with the monitors," he said. "How active are we in getting this good feedback to the Town Council? I think we're going to continue to run into opposition, so whatever we can do to get this positive feedback out there is good."

twoods@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6582; @Woods_NCNews