Graner: School security enhancements top priority after Newtown

In the aftermath of the unthinkable tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Ledyard Public Schools undertook a thorough review of the district's security precautions and made a presentation on Jan. 10.

At the public session, school and police officials informed parents about the precautions that are in place, a number of recent additional measures the schools have implemented, and plans for future security improvements. Following the presentation, parents and staff members participating in the program offered several valuable suggestions to improve security.

Our current system includes several procedures that have been in place for many years. The schools control access by requiring anyone visiting our schools to be buzzed into the building, via intercom and video surveillance camera systems. Visitors are then issued temporary badges after signing-in at the office.

Staff ID badges

All staff members have been issued permanent identification badges. Exterior doors at all buildings are kept locked and entry is restricted to the front door. The district has a detailed plan to deal with intruders and other security risks; the plans are practiced regularly throughout the year.

Since the tragic events of Dec. 14, we have taken several steps to enhance the measures already in place. Schools have further limited access to the building by having adult coverage at the entrance and exits at the beginning and end of the school day. Security ID badges will now be issued to all substitute teachers and regular volunteers. Our crisis plans are being reviewed by the district's School Security Committee, which consists of police and other first responders.

Over the last several weeks, a number of resources have become available that will support the security of our schools. Both the Connecticut State Police and our district insurance company will conduct a school building security assessment; the results of which will be shared with the Board of Education and community when they are completed. Ledyard Police Department will also review our security measures and work with school staff to augment the procedures.

A major aspect of the Jan. 10 presentation was a frank dialogue about building security concerns at all our schools. Thanks to several good suggestions from participants, we are investigating some building renovation projects to improve the physical security of our schools. For example, the district plans to install electronic/magnetic doors at the middle school that will allow staff to close and lock off the cluster areas remotely from the office. In addition, we are investigating the construction of temporary lockable doors at the entrance of each cluster of middle school classrooms to provide additional security in those areas.

The presentation ended with a commitment to develop a culture of enhanced security. Students, staff and community members were encouraged to communicate security concerns, report any person or situation that appears to compromise safety, and to foster trusting relations among members of the school community.

MICHAEL GRANER IS THE LEDYARD SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS.

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