Brookfield Educators Outline Plan to Improve School Safety

School district officials are requesting funding assistance to implement a three-phase security plan.

After the tragic Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in neighboring Newtown, just miles from Brookfield’s own public schools, local educators met with security experts and attended a special state-wide symposium Monday to learn how to better protect children and faculty from a similar rogue act of violence.

What emerged is a three-phase plan [see attached PDF] to increase security measures at all four schools and improve emergency communication between the buildings and the police department.

“Pretty much immediately after the Newtown tragedy we started to work on what we had to do in Brookfield to secure our schools more effectively,” District Director of Business and Technology Art Colley explained while presenting the plan to the Board of Selectmen (BOS) Monday evening.

School district administrators met with retired Secret Service agent Richard Zucchi, a security expert who happens to be the father of a local resident, and Brookfield Police Chief Robin Montgomery, a retired FBI agent, and came up with three major areas for improvement: communications, control of access points and student and staff safety.

To begin implementing this plan, Colley and Superintendent Anthony Bivona went before the BOS Monday to request funding assistance for the first phase, which is projected to cost $110,900.

The first phase, which could be completed by the end of the month if funding is secured, would focus on “immediate and significant enhancements to access control,” according to Colley. This would include installing the “double buzzer” system at each main entrance, ID security windows for the front offices, key card access for employee entrances and video surveillance at important access points.

The major portion of Phase II is the replacement of the locking mechanisms on the doors at the three lower schools — Center Elementary School (CES), Huckleberry Hill Elementary School (HHES) and Whisconier Middle School (WMS) — to allow them to be locked separately from the inside, a feature included in the Brookfield High School (BHS) renovation. The lock replacements and some added surveillance measures would come to $162,600.

The final phase — and least expensive at $74,000 — calls for the installation of security gates at the main entrances, purchasing at least two high-end police band radios for each school building and a final round of surveillance upgrades.

The total cost for all three phases would be $347,500. [See PDF for full breakdown of security improvements.]

“It’s imperative for us to try to move forward, given the stakes,” Colley said, estimating that, “given the high priority,” work on all three phases could be completed by the spring.

The BOS moved to appropriate $70,000 to help carry the cost of implementing Phase I, with the remainder to come from the school district. The motion was sent to the Board of Finance (BOF) to consider at their Jan. 9 meeting and a tentative town meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.

“Phase I is an important thing,” First Selectman Bill Davidson said Monday, asking Bivona and Colley to meet with the selectmen soon to discuss how the town can help the schools move forward with the other phases quickly. “No one is questioning whether it should be done, it’s just how to pay the bills.”

The BOS is also looking at creating a School/Town Security Committee, however that proposal is still in development, according to Davidson.

Matthew Coleman January 09, 2013 at 10:54 PM
Part 1 of 2: Everyone will agree that any school shooting is an extremely egregious act. If memory serves me correctly, I think the shooter was mentally unstable. We should also remember that while egregious, these are also rare events. Why do I mention these items? It is very hard to predict how to protect something/someone from someone who is mentally ill. They are, by definition, crazy by rational standards. We could spend a million dollars turning our schools into fortresses and still not reliably prevent an incident. I am not in favor of turning our schools into fortresses. I am, however, in favor of increased security. I think that it is very tough to make rational decisions in times of high emotional stress. I don't want us to go overboard and give up some of the things that allow our teachers to provide an excellent education to our children. I have heard rumors of fences around the schools and limiting parents to a maximum of three in a class, as examples. I have not been able to confirm these. I hope both are untrue. Fences add no security value as they will be hopped over or otherwise made ineffective. Will we never send the children outside to recess? I hope not. Part 2 next.
Matthew Coleman January 09, 2013 at 10:55 PM
Part 2 of 2: With respect to the limit of three parents in the room at one time, this would eliminate any kind of holiday concert or play. Do we really want to give those up for a limit on parents? Parents? We are trying to protect against mentally ill individuals, not parents. As I said, I am in favor of increased security. I have read the Security and Safety plan dated Jan. 7. The Communications section is good and should be invisible to the children. The video surveillance, however, will not be a deterrent to the mentally ill. They want to be seen. The Access Control section is reasonably good with some of my comments above already addressing this. Parents should still be able to visit their child in school for lunch, class participation, etc. I will say that the employees should come and go through the front door only. A door located elsewhere protected only by a card reader is useless. Badges get stolen; people get hit over the head on their way in; doors get stuck or don't close before someone piggy-backs someone else. My comments come from years of work in secure facilities. I’m sure the security experts would agree with these points. The security is only as good as the weakest point. Please take a deep breath and give some consideration to the more than just the technical issues of security. The atmosphere and parental participation does contribute to the ability of our students to learn. Thank you for listening. Matthew Coleman
Steven DeVaux January 10, 2013 at 12:35 AM
JM, No. Concrete block and brick/ high smaller windows are much less vunerable. Some crazy could start the building on fire from the outside. There aren't very many wooden schools left and that's why the School Facilities Unit won't let them be built anymore. In terms of an answer to stopping some crazy I personally think taszers would be effective for staff to defend the children.
JM January 10, 2013 at 02:46 AM
Steve, As a rec center/ library it would still be a wooden structure. Mass shootings are not resticted to schools
Steven DeVaux January 10, 2013 at 11:27 AM
JM, I thought the discussion was about schools. If it's about all public buildings, you're right. On the basis of any buildings, it should be demolished and historical marker placed there.


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