School security in capital budget sparks heated remarks

“Do they realize what just happened in Florida?! Do they realize..?” school board member Doug Silver said.

Ridgefield students have been doing lockdown drills since the Newtown school shootings in 2012. And school security has repeatedly been cited as a rationale for budget requests, ranging from door locks to cameras to security guards — including $750,000 appropriation passed shortly after the Newtown tragedy to beef up school security.

It’s a hot issue again.

Silver was venting Tuesday night about the selectmen’s $237,000 reduction to “security” items in the 2018-19 school capital budget proposal.

First Selectman Rudy Marconi said Wednesday that the selectmen were trying to get overall borrowing down to $2.75 million for next year — it’s still projected at $3 million.

“They could restore it and take it out of some of the other items, as long as their total ask is reduced by $237,000,” Marconi said.

The schools’ $949,000 capital request includes $475,700 for “technology and facilities upgrades for continuity of safety and school operations.”

Included are:

  • $162,800 for “replacement of outdated district-wide wireless access points that currently support all security cameras … building access controls; and the mass notification infrastructure.”
  • $64,000 for replacement of “out of warranty, aged-out servers used for file storage and critical network infrastructure …”

The “impacts” listed include: “Loss of access to put building(s) into lockdown; inability to secure and control access to building doors; loss of access to camera surveillance and recording capability; loss of network credentials necessary for access to safety and security devices …”

Other security requests include:

  • $75,000 for 47 “surveillance interior cameras” in the elementary schools and “additional critical cameras” in the high school.” This is “based on a recent state police audit” with a goal to “safeguard our elementary students and facilities by surveilling the interior of our school hallways, entrance points and other critical areas.”
  • $105,000 to install “impact resistant intrusion film” and “wet glazing” in order “to strengthen exposable glass entryways and adjacent entry windows” to “slow the intrusion process and buy valuable time in mitigating any intrusion threat.”
  • $68,900 for “construction of interior front entrance vestibule to secure front entrance” at East Ridge Middle School. “Provides securable access points to the auditorium, cafeteria, and staff break-room; creating a necessary, securable stoppoint point for visitor registration and sign-in,” the budget document says.

“We did a security audit two years ago with the State Police,” Dr. Robert Miller, the schools’ director of technology and operations development, told the Board of Education when outlining the request in November. “They recommended to us the creation of a locked-in area where a visitor comes in…”

The program would start this year at East Ridge, he said, since it’s main office is so far from the front door.