Work begins on safety improvements

REGION 16 — A series of security improvements in Region 16 schools is under way.

Work to install tamper-resistant glass at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls has started.

The tamper-resistant glass is not bullet-proof. Rather, it’s designed to withstand multiple gunshots without shattering. The work to replace the glass in windows and doors on the ground floor of Woodland is expected to be complete around the time school will begin in September, Director of Finance and Business Operations Pamela Mangini said.

Then the new glass will be installed at Long River Middle School in Prospect, Mangini said. Replacing the glass at Laurel Ledge School will be coordinated with the ongoing renovations at the Beacon Falls school, she said.

The new glass will not be installed at Algonquin and Community schools in Prospect, since the schools will close once the new Prospect Elementary School opens in the fall of 2015.

The tamper-resistant glass is one of many safety upgrades the district will be making over the coming months and into next year.

School security became a main concern of districts and the state after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in December 2012. Following the shooting, a security audit was performed on each school in Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, and the district office. The Board of Education then compiled a list of improvements to be made.

Voters in Beacon Falls and Prospect approved the appropriation of up to $1,955,000 for the security improvements at a referendum last year.

The tamper-resistant glass is one of four major components of the overall project officials are focusing on completing first. The other three main components are new surveillance cameras and the infrastructure to support them, new digital radios, and new doors locks and expanding web-based access controls for doors, which require personnel to swipe a card to open doors.

Director of Technology Bruce Bartmess said the equipment for these three parts of the project is currently on order. Work is expected to begin in the coming week or so, he said.

The camera system will go from an analog system to a digital one, Bartmess said. The digital cameras will provide a better resolution and allow for more flexibility on where they can be installed and how they can controlled, he said.

With the new system, administrators will be able to bring up the live feed from the cameras on their computers and portable electronic devices. Security guards at Woodland will also have access to the feed, Bartmess said.

“They’re constantly patrolling the building,” Bartmess said.

The district is also buying tablets for the police departments in both towns so officers can view the live footage in the event of an emergency.

The new cameras will be installed in Woodland, Long River and Laurel Ledge schools. Existing camera equipment will be placed in Algonquin and Community schools, Bartmess said, since they will be closing. The schools currently don’t have cameras.

The new school will have all of the same equipment installed.

Once Algonquin and Community schools are closed, officials will salvage any equipment they can from the schools, Bartmess said.

“Any piece of equipment that we can recapture we’re definitely going to do that,” he said.

The district will purchase about 180 new radios. Repeaters will be installed in each school as well that will allow for communication between each school and the district office, Bartmess said. The radios currently in use only allow for communication within a school building.

The radios and repeaters for Algonquin and Community schools will be taken to the new school, he said.

Bartmess said the plan is for each school to have its own channel. Channels could also be set up for segments of the staff, such as maintenance workers, he added. The system will allow for every radio to receive a notification in an emergency regardless of what channel they are on, he explained.

“People would be segmented in their own work worlds, but in an emergency you’d be able to light up literally all of the radios,” Bartmess said.

First responders in both towns will also be given the new radios.

“If they’re pulling on scene and something’s going on they’ll be able to immediately connect to our frequencies,” Bartmess said.

While voters approved spending up to $1,955,000 for the improvements, the district will be reimbursed for eligible costs through a state grant.

The amount the district is responsible for is estimated at $995,000. The district’s cost includes its match for the grant, about $612,000, and the cost of items not eligible for reimbursement under the grant, which is estimated to be $383,000.

The items not eligible for reimbursement include a generator for the pump house at Woodland, replacing 46 single-pane windows at Long River Middle School with aluminum projected windows and retrofitting the entrances at Long River and Laurel Ledge schools to make them Sallyports.

Mangini said the district has taken out a $1 million loan that is expected cover its costs. The loan is for one year at 1 percent interest, she said. The loan will be rolled into a bond note with school building project expenses next year, she said.

The work that is eligible for state reimbursement must be completed by June 30, 2015, Mangini said, but is anticipated to be done much sooner. The focus is on this work first, she said. The work that is not eligible for reimbursement will be planned out once a new facilities director is hired to replace David Langdon, who resigned in July, she said.

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