The Groton School Department has begun making several security changes in the schools, including installing buzzer entry systems, posting cameras to view front entrances, playgrounds and areas around portable classrooms, and giving students cards that go into a card reader when they enter buildings.
William Robarge, director of facilities and grounds for the public schools, said the department also plans to install a “panic button” in the front office with a direct link to 9-1-1, and to retrofit classroom doors so they may be locked from the inside without a key.
“As you all know, time is precious,” Robarge told Representative Town Meeting Wednesday. “The five minutes begins and it’s over. So every 30 seconds, even 10 seconds (that) we can buy as a deterrent is precious. So we’re looking at everything we can do to buy time.”
School officials across the state have been discussing ways to improve security since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. to talk about ways to safeguard schools. The event was closed to the public.
Robarge said Groton has locked all of its outside doors, installed doorbells and required staff to wear badges since the shootings at Newtown.
Now he said it is proceeding with the first phase of a more involved plan. The district is paying for the plan using $300,000 it had from a pervious year for security that it didn’t spend, he said.
The plan includes the following:
- Cameras at front entrances, playgrounds and areas where students come and go, such as near portable classrooms.
- A buzzer system at the front entrance that allows office staff to view and communicate with the person asking to come in.
- Card readers at areas where students require access to buildings such as near portable classrooms. Students would be given access cards that would then be returned to the teacher.
- A panic button in the main office with a direct dial link to 9-1-1.
- Locks on classroom doors that allow teachers to lock the door from the inside without a key, but still quickly get out if necessary.
- Walkie-talkies for staff so they can communicate with the front office.
Groton is working with A&R Communications, which has agreed to install the cameras and card readers but let school facilities staff handle the wiring to save the district money.
Wiring is finished in five schools and Robarge expects camera and other work to begin within the next month. The camera software is tied to the Internet, so town and city police would be able to view them from their facilities, Robarge said.
He said he is working with the police department, former School Facilities Director Wes Greenleaf and has consulted with other districts to come up with the security plan. He expects it will be added to and constantly reviewed.
The second phase of the plan could include having a local security organization make rounds through the schools. The district is also considering adding youth officers like those who work at Fitch High School, so more officers are available to elementary and middle schools.