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.