The pricetag hasn't been calculated yet, but Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei is vowing the security of Greenwich public schools will be improved and the town ready to pay for it.
In the wake of the Dec. 14 elementary school massacre in Newtown, Greenwich public school and law enforcement officials have been reviewing school safety and how to improve it. However, any security enhancements will not include armed guards or police assigned to each school, Tesei told Greenwich Patch.
In his report to the school board last week, Superintendent William McKersie said, “Greenwich is within reach to achieve best practices for safety and security.” Having said that to get there will require an “ important investment,” in an amount still to be determined, but it will be "significant.”
McKersie repeatedly stated that such investment would be handled separately from both the operating and capital budgets and treated as an “interim appropriation.”
Tesei said the probability is good that a second school resource officer from the police department will be assigned to the schools. Since 2007, a school resource officer has been assigned to Greenwich High School. That officer also works with the town's three middle schools.
"A second officer will compliment what the officer does," said Tesei, who also is the town's police commissioner. Tesei also said that the department's community impact officers—officers assigned to specific geographic areas in town—are redoubling their efforts to work with the administration of the schools in their neighborhoods. "They are in fact interfacing with the schools on a regular basis" which he said gives administrators and teachers "a sense of comfort with the department through CIOs," Tesei said.
Among the options the town and school board are considering is installation of bullet-proof window glazings, Tesei said. In the Newtown shooting, the alleged gunman, Adam Lamza, shot his way into the school, shattering the secure entry way.
McKersie told the Board of Education at its Jan. 24 meeting that he plans to review the pending security plan with the PTA Council on Feb. 1. He also reviewed it with the district's Leadership Council on Jan. 28.
Until final decisions are made, Greenwich Police are maintaining a presence at all town schools, especially during arrival and dismissal times, according to police records.
According to Tesei, access to school buildings including improved security camera surveillance of school entrances and remote-controlled entry are expected to be part of the plan. As it stands, access to all schools are limited to the main entrance where visitors must be "buzzed" in via a remote security access administered via the school office personnel.
McKersie said that he along with Tesei and Chief of Police James Heavey are in “consensus" in that the town "will not be adding armed officers” to Greenwich Public Schools. However, McKersie said that they are considering adding an additional Resource Officer to allow the current SRO, Officer Carlos Franco, more flexibility. In addition to GHS, Franco also has purview over the middle schools along with teaching role and a key figure in “developing relationships with those most at risk.”
McKersie said that while security guards are being hired in other school districts across the state, it is not something that is going to be “endorsed” in Greenwich. “Schools that have had armed guards still have shootings,” he said.
He stated that the each of the 15 schools in Greenwich already has a “real relationship” with the Greenwich Police Department; “every school has a detective assigned to them. We want to have that be a real and definite piece.”
Another element in the plan being analyzed are the buildings themselves.
“You have to harden the exterior. Make it difficult to get in. Make the building seem empty,” said McKersie. The goal would be to “make in nearly impossible to find someone” within the buildings and "allow the police to get there fast.”
Options that are being looked at seriously, revealed the Super, include:
- Master keys
- Upgrading intercoms
- Ability to lock doors from the inside to create a lock down situation
- Monitoring cameras
- Card readers
- Drop shades on windows
- Panic buttons in each school
One misnomer that McKersie squashed was the exclusion of parental input. He emphatically stated that the “parent voice on this” would be “essential.” However, he did say “we can’t decide this on a poll.”