Lyme-Old Lyme district proposing to bring back school resource officer

Old Lyme — The academic year will begin with a host of new safety and security measures at Lyme-Old Lyme Schools and plans to later bring on board a school resource officer.

The district is working on a proposal in which an Old Lyme constable would work as a school resource officer and hopes the officer would start sometime this fall, Superintendent Ian Neviaser said. The officer would serve all three of the district's campuses.

"The intent of hiring that person is to ensure the safety of all of our students and our staff and make sure people understand that when school's in session, this is a closed environment," Neviaser said. "Sadly, in today's day and age, you can't come and go anymore. We want to make sure people are in place to ensure people aren't coming onto campus when they shouldn't be and make sure students are safe at all times."

Besides the planned school resource officer, the district has hired an additional security guard. That means that, starting with the beginning of this school year, there will be a full-time security guard at every one of the district's campuses, Neviaser said. The school year starts for students on Tuesday.

In reviewing security protocols last year, the district's Safety Committee had decided it was important, with the climate of schools today, to bring back a school resource officer, Neviaser said. He said the school district had a school resource officer up until about 10 years ago, through a state program that later ended.  

Old Lyme's Police Services Options Committee also recommended a school resource officer, First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder said.

Under the proposal, the school district would reimburse the town of Old Lyme for the cost of the officer, which is proposed as a part-time position, since the officer would work during the school year, Reemsnyder said. Local officials are working on determining the costs and logistics for the proposal. For the final proposal to move forward, the funding for the officer would need to be approved at a town meeting.

The school resource officer's role would be to ensure safety and security; monitor and evaluate what is going on at all three campuses; work with security guards, as well as the district's safety committee; respond to any dangerous situation that might require his or her assistance; and advise the district on safety matters, Neviaser said. The school resource officer also would likely come in to classrooms to speak to students, for educational purposes, on a variety of topics, but the primary job would be to ensure everyone is safe and secure.

The district also has implemented additional safety and security initiatives.

The district installed a safety film on all windows, including interior windows, as an additional security precaution. The district also worked with Emergency Management Director Dave Roberge to secure a FEMA grant to upgrade its radio system to enable radio communication throughout the district, rather than only within the confines of a single campus, Neviaser said.

The district additionally upgraded its phone system, he said. Every phone now has a panic button, so anyone can call a lockdown at any time. If and when that happens, the entire administration and first responders would be alerted through text, email and phone messages. School officials also can make announcements to any place in the district through the new phone system. 

"We can provide immediate information to people, which is an import part of responding to any incident," Neviaser said.

The administration team this summer underwent various trainings, including with the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) response program, and will implement concepts into its lockdown drills, he said.

"It's always been important for us as educators to keep kids safe, but certainly in today's climate with all the violent activity we've seen in schools, businesses and throughout the country, we want to ensure students and staff and parents that their loved ones are safe within our schools," Neviaser said. "An important part of any student's learning is feeling safe. They need to feel safe to be able to learn."

 k.drelich@theday.com

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