Central schools updating security

Soon after the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn., Superintendent Michael Faulk instructed the five schools in Central to conduct “intruder” drills on top of monthly fire and tornado drills.

Other security measures in the works include new photographs and maps of each school for first responders, “visible markers” for each school and limiting the access to the very open Central High School campus, Faulk told the Central Community School Board on Monday.

“We have to tie up any loose ends because we can’t think it won’t happen here,” Faulk said.

He said he’d like to double the number of school resource officers Central uses from two to four, but he will have to see if the school district can afford to do that. He said he hopes the federal government will resume offering grants for such positions.

Central schools already have made a range of security improvements since voters approved bonds for school construction and repairs in 2009. For instance, Central’s two new schools, which opened in August, restrict access to visitors and have kiosks where visitors have to obtain identification badges.

The high school, however, remains problematic.

“The issue there is: With so many entry points, how do you monitor that?” Faulk said.

Three people in Central with security backgrounds have volunteered to help and offer guidance, Faulk said. He plans to have them particularly look at the high school.

Faulk said he plans to return to the School Board in February with more security improvement recommendations.

He hopes to include safety features when construction of a new ninth-grade academy begins on the high school campus. That project, however, is still in planning, he said.

One improvement he’s making now is to install new door locks in older classrooms where the doors don’t lock from the inside. Faulk said he hopes to upgrade all classroom locks but is not sure how much it will cost and how long it will take.

During the new intruder drills, teachers are getting tips such as to be more careful who they let into their classroom during an emergency.

“Unless you can visually tell that’s the officer, you don’t open the door,” he said.

Faulk told the board that it’s too much to expect that added school security can stop tragedies like the Sandy Hook shootings.

“We all know that not all tragedies can be prevented,” he said. “What we can do is to be ready to handle crises, large or small, and take steps to keep our students and staff as safe as possible.”