After Uvalde ‘heightened’ concerns about security, Ridgefield schools explore ‘formal’ audit

Ridgefield High School in Ridgefield, Conn. Monday, Oct. 20, 2014.

Ridgefield High School in Ridgefield, Conn. Monday, Oct. 20, 2014.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

RIDGEFIELD — With the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas bringing concerns about security to the forefront, Ridgefield is the latest school district to take a closer look at safety in its buildings.

The Ridgefield Board of Education is exploring launching a more “formal” audit of school security, which could include bringing in experts that could help identify “where our strengths are and perhaps opportunities for growth,” Superintendent Susie Da Silva said.

The board discussed school security during an executive session last week. Discussions are preliminary, and Da Silva declined to discuss specifics due to concerns that that could jeopardize school security. However, she said the district hasn’t ruled out any ideas.

“Everything is part of the discussion when it comes to student safety,” she said.

Administrators are trying to push along already approved projects related to security that have been delayed due to increased costs of supplies and materials, Da Silva told the school board during Monday’s meeting. This includes work to the vestibule at an elementary school.

“These are approved projects that are already there that just couldn’t be taken care of as a result of costs,” Da Silva said.

The district anticipates a $525,000 surplus this fiscal year due to a one-time insurance adjustment, although that estimate could change as the year wraps up. The education board has already requested that the Board of Finance consider using that surplus to create a non-lapsing account to fund upgrades to the school playgrounds.

However, DaSilva told the school board that she plans to ask the finance board to also consider putting any additional surplus beyond what might go toward playgrounds to the security projects.

“Obviously, we all know when we had that conversation (about the playgrounds), it happened prior to the event of Uvalde,” DaSilva said. “So, of course we’re all heightened as we should be always, but certainly now, and this would be an opportunity to expedite (the projects.)”

Across the Danbury area, school districts have taken varying measures in the wake of the Texas shooting to ensure their schools are safe.

Brookfield’s school board has restarted its school security task force, with the first selectwoman suggesting armed officers be added to the buildings.

New Milford had been working to add armed security guards at an elementary school, as well as the middle and high schools. One elementary school already had an armed officer. That school district is expected to launch an audit of its school security next week, in collaboration with the town’s police chief and other emergency management officials.

Danbury and Redding were already auditing school safety and security prior to the shooting in Uvalde. Both audits went beyond warding against a tragedy like that in Uvalde. Redding’s audit reviewed polices related to drug use and the availability of defibrillators in the buildings, while Danbury’s included looking at signage and parking.

The Redding Board of Education has set aside $35,000 to address school security and plans to request a portion of the town’s American Rescue Plan Act funds go toward this effort.

Like school districts across the state, Ridgefield regularly reviews school security in partnership with the local or state police department, Da Silva said.

But now the district is exploring what outside resources may be available to elevate that work, she said. Hiring an expert for this is not part of the existing budget, so it would require further review and approval.

“What I have heard is that families want to know that this is a topic that is important to us, which it is and one that we’re engaged in now and always, not just in a situation like this,” Da Silva said.