Vote on safety bond likely to come next year
REGION 16 — A bond proposal to pay for school security upgrades is not expected to head to a vote until early next year.
Superintendent of Schools Tim James said a referendum on the package will be postponed until January or early February. The main catalyst for delaying the vote is the desire to have a sally port at each school.
A sally port is a double set of doors that would be locked. Visitors to a school would have to be electronically buzzed in through the first set of doors and then again through a second set of locked doors in order to gain access to a school.
The idea for adding sally ports came out of a meeting last week with representatives from Fletcher Thompson, an architectural firm working on Region 16’s three-part school building project.
James explained school officials met with consultants to discuss the security equipment planned for the new Prospect Elementary School in order to ensure it is compatible with the equipment officials want to purchase through bonding.
James said some minor adjustments that need to be made on both sides were uncovered during the meeting. However, he said, the most significant issue to come out of the meeting was the sally ports.
Pushing back the referendum, which the board had been targeting for October or November, will allow time to design and get cost estimates for building the sally ports.
Long River Middle School already has two sets of doors at its main entrance, which would have to be retrofitted electrically so the interior set would lock, James said.
Retrofitting would also be done at Laurel Ledge Elementary School, which has several different doors leading inside the school in the main entryway, James said.
A second set of doors would have to be built at Woodland Regional High School and the design for the new school will have to be adjusted to add a sally port, James said.
Algonquin and Community schools currently don’t have a second set of doors at their main entrances, but the schools will be closing when the new elementary school opens. The new school is expected to be opened in the fall of 2015.
School security became a main concern of districts across the country following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last December. Since then, a security audit was performed on each school in Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, and the district office.
School officials have compiled a list of recommended improvements estimated to cost nearly $1.6 million, not counting the sally ports. Voters will have to authorize the board to borrow the money.
James said the discussions surrounding school security improvements will continue as the bond package is finalized for a referendum. He said the board only has one opportunity to get the security upgrades right and has to do as much as it possibly can to keep the schools safe and secure.
“If we really want to do this, do it well and do it right. … This is going to be our one shot to go to the community and do it right,” James said.