The Greenwich Board of Education approved an interim appropriation request for $1.4 million in safety and security enhancements to Greenwich Publcic Schools at their business meeting last week at Julian Curtiss School.
While the original Safety & Security Proposal set forward called for a $1.5 million expenditure, the board approved the request at $1,402,000 in a vote of 7-0 with board member Peter von Braun absent.
The proposal was first presented at the board's Feb. 7 work session and came as the result of a district–wide audit and consultation with First Selectman Peter Tesei as well as the Greenwich Police Department.
Police Chief James Heavey was on hand last week to answer the board’s questions and called the $1.5 million proposal as “standards in school safety," stating that the efforts are “right in line.”
During PTA Council comments, President Lisa Beth Savitz stated that “intellectually we know that most of the risks we guard against are remote, and resources might be better allocated. However, we also feel that no threat to our children is permissible, and we would stop at nothing to assure their absolute safety, if such a thing were possible.” She acknowledged that “finding the compromise point at which we can be comfortable is something we will struggle with as a Council, a community, a state, and a nation, for years to come.”
“Where else can that money be spent?,”
asked Dr. Gaetane Francis, who has two children in Greenwich Public Schools, during the public comments. She asked the board to carefully consider the expense of the proposal. While she acknowledged that the request for funding would be handled separately from the district’s Operating and Capital budgets, she pointed out that the monies would “still come from our Town” and are “unlikely to make a difference.”
Board member Jennifer Dayton said that she “takes to heart the PTA comments” about the expense. Dayton offered as a “silver lining,” Bill HB 7001 making its way through Connecticut Legislation which would provide “funding for municipal building and school security systems.”
If approved, the bill would fund “municipal improvements to building security systems, including schools, eligible for funding under the Local Chapter Improvement Program (LoCIP) Fund.”
What is notable of the bill’s intent, said Dayton, is that the state would be acknowledging that the “risk is not contained within the boundaries of any single town.”
Where Do We Draw The Line?
When the upgrades were first proposed to the board at their work session, Board member Peter Sherr said that he was ready to vote on the initiative then. Now two weeks later, Sherr said that the amount of money being proposed was “troubling” and “makes me uneasy.”
As she did at the work session, board member Adrian Ospina once again asked “where do we draw the line?” stating that “we don’t want to go overboard.” Ospina specifically questioned the installment of bollards at an expense of $98,000. “Isn’t that a little bit too much?,” she asked.
In response, Heavey called the bollards an example of “crime prevention through environmental design” stating that their are to prevent a “vehicle-born intrusion into the school.”
The admnistration will now submit for an interim appropriation for the $1.4 million through the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) Budget Committee on March 12, the full BET on March 18 and the Representative Town Meeting on April 18.