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Security Proposal for Darien Schools

Schools Superintendent Stephen Falcone has proposed hiring security guards for Darien's five elementary schools and the middle school, in addition to other security measures

A "security monitor" would be put in each elementary school and the middle school; security cameras and outdoor public address systems would be added to the schools; a more secure foyer would be added at Holmes School.

Those are some of the biggest changes that would come if a $344,000 school security program proposed by Schools Superintendent Stephen V. Falcone and just adopted unanimously by the Board of Education were to go into effect. The $344,000 would be for the currrent fiscal year.

Another $201,000 would be spent in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, and after that the school security monitors would cost about $156,000 per fiscal year, plus any possible wage increases, on an ongoing basis.

Falcone and the board are proposing that some of the money be spent on hiring security monitors and doing some of the other work during this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

What's been happening so far

In the weeks since the Newtown school shooting, Falcone said in a memorandum dated Feb. 8 to the Board of Education, "There has een increased police presence in and around the schools for which we are extremely grateful.

"Additionally, we have worked together and conducted lockdown drills in every school building in the district, debreiefed processes with faculty and staff and solicited feedback from lockdown participants about items that have needed to be repaired or replaced. The information gathered from these exercises has provided both the district and the Police Department with important information."

Visitors entering school buildings now may find doors locked, and when they are allowed in, they may need to identify themselves and state who they are visiting, Falcone said. Those doing the checking at present differ by school, with the Middle School using teachers for the purpose and some other schools using other personnel, such as library aides. Volunteers are also still welcome to help with the process, Falcone said.

Safety monitors

In the future, volunteers will still be encouraged to help out at welcome desks at the schools and even allow people inside, he said. But the district wants to hire "safety monitors" who will have tasks such as supervising pedestrian flow in and out of buildings, periodically checking locks and doors throughout each building, maintaining logs of visitors, monitor parking lots and creating "systems for visitor drop off of items for students."

(For a more extensive description of the duties of a security monitor, see the superintendent's Feb. 8 memo to the Board of Education, attached to this article.)

The cost

School officials want to hire the security monitors as soon as possible, creating a cost of $75,000 for this fiscal year. The cost for the full fiscal year in 2013-2014 would be $156,000.

The security plan also includes these items:

  • Installation of security cameras and outdoor public address systems in this fiscal year: $179,000. Outdoor public address systems allow schools to get students, teachers and others who are outoors back inside the building quickly, in advance of an approaching tornado, for instance, Falcone said. A public address system that can be heard clearly means that sirens or codes won't need to be activated.
  • Additional money for "hardware and technology security needs" in this fiscal year. "These include upgrades and repairs to doors, locks and windows, an upgrade to camera-related software, and a reconfiguration of an entryway at Holmes School," Falcone said in the memo. "Holmes School is the only one without a vestibule," Falcone said. The money would renovate the school's original front doors to make a new entryway for students, teachers and others. This would cost another $90,000.

DARIEN SCHOOLS SECURITY

PLAN COSTS

2012-2013

(current)

fiscal year

2013-2014

fiscal year

Security monitors $75,000 $156,000

Cameras & public

address systems

$179,000

"Hardware and technology

security needs

$90,000 $45,000 TOTAL $344,000 $201,000

Darien High School already has four security monitors. It has more than any other school would have because of the size of the school grounds and because those monitors also work with students, sometimes identifying personal problems before they become major behavioral problems, Falcone said.

Bestiarius February 14, 2013 at 07:05 PM
Typical over reaction. What's next? Bullet proof vests for all students while they are in class. I can see the next headline: "Armed school security guard goes berzerk." Mankind will never stop all crime. Local school security is more than adequate. I hope we never have a meteor come crashing through a school roof, because we'll be meteor-proofing roofs around the nation. Life is never without risk.
Ali February 14, 2013 at 07:53 PM
Let me start by saying I have children in the Darien elementary schools. I feel this money would be better spent on teachers and smaller class sizes. I am all for emergency plans and having the front doors locked during the day, but I am not sure a security monitor in each school is money well spent. After last weeks tragedy in Alabama will we have to fund security monitors on buses as well?
Siwanoy February 14, 2013 at 08:51 PM
When I was at ox ridge and MMS the doors were always locked and the custodians would check them to make sure they were locked, why did they stop that practice to then hire a new position to do it? Surely the last thing the DPS needs is more non-teachers on its payroll.
Charlene February 14, 2013 at 09:31 PM
I went to DPS - Holmes, MMS & DHS - the doors were never locked. I think they should be locked and the only way to get in is thru the main entrance. Lock the classroom doors, too - Stamford High used to do that to cut back on tardiness.
Siwanoy February 14, 2013 at 09:39 PM
When did you go? the old DHS you couldn't lock the doors anyway, people would come in from other buildings with our "california" style school in new england!
Charlene February 14, 2013 at 09:46 PM
I went to the old DHS - graduated in 1990. That school layout was ridiculous. I remember freezing my butt off to get to gym or an art class or to a school assembly.

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