Superintendent, police working to increase school security

By Jennifer Coe - ReminderNews
Windsor Locks - posted Wed., Jan. 23, 2013
Windsor Locks Superintendent of Schools Wayne Sweeney is working with local police to improve school safety. File photo.
Windsor Locks Superintendent of Schools Wayne Sweeney is working with local police to improve school safety. File photo.

In the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012, schools across the state are looking for ways to improve their security. School district after school district has held meetings, done research and walked the halls of their own schools looking for ways to make them safer in the case of an attack or other emergency. Windsor Locks has also made a move to secure its schools, and to find and correct any loopholes which may put students at risk.

In January alone, every school in town has had a security review with School Resource Officer Kenneth Precourt, Facilities Director Steve Mills and building principals. During that review, each classroom attempted to test-call 911, and all communications were assessed to see if they were in working order. In addition, all police department cruisers have been given detailed school maps to carry in their cruisers.

“We just walked through all the buildings and went into every nook and cranny,” said Precourt. He explained that they sought answers to many different questions: “Are the locks working properly? Does everyone have access to the phone? Can they hear the announcements?” Precourt said they also looked to see where the best place to shelter people would be.

The officials came up with many suggestions for security improvements. At the simplest level, all teacher names will be removed from their doors. Things that will take more time will include adding video surveillance to all exterior doors, loading docks and playgrounds.
An effort to coordinate more safety measures with the before- and after-school programs has begun as well.

“We want to make sure students are safe before and after school,” said Superintendent of Schools Wayne Sweeney. “The doors have [historically] been unlocked,” he explained, adding that they plan on installing a security camera and buzzer system for the before- and after-school personnel to use.

As of Feb. 1, all staff members will be in possession of a swipe identification badge, and when substitute teachers are given classroom keys, they will have to leave something as collateral until the key is returned.

Also in the works is improved lighting for both North Street School and South Elementary School, and a real-time video link to Windsor Locks Police Department vehicles.

Still of concern to parents are the glassed-in entryways in both of the elementary schools. The school system is looking to install a double buzz-in system for those doors.

In addition, parents who have been free to come in and spontaneously have lunch with their students will have to schedule that time via the main office from now on, so that staff members can account for every person in the building.

More than a few of these items will require Board of Finance funding.

At a public meeting held Jan. 22, a proposal to introduce, discuss and act upon a resolution to appropriate $100,000 from the Unallocated Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) Account to the Board of Education was offered by the Board of Finance. The money would be used for upgrades to the Windsor Locks Schools Security Systems, as recommended by the Board of Finance.

The public voted and the resolution passed unanimously, despite a low turnout of residents at the meeting.

“I am hopeful and optimistic,” said Sweeney. “The additional measures will buy some time, and minutes save lives.”

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