By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
NAUGATUCK — Borough officials last week closed off access to Andrew Avenue Elementary School from Spencer Street.
The Naugatuck Police Department announced on its Facebook page Jan. 5 that the access gate to the school on Spencer Street has been closed permanently “in accordance with ongoing security upgrades and working in partnership with the Board of Education.”
Police said “permanent barriers” will be installed later this year.
The Board of Education discussed the issue at a meeting last February. At the time, officials said a lot of drivers speed and cut through school grounds during the day and it poses a security risk.
Police Chief Steven Hunt told the Board of Mayor and Burgesses on Jan. 5 that police did security audits of all the schools. He said one of the recommendations was to close the gate at Andrew Avenue School.
Burgess Rocky Vitale questioned how closing the gate and building a barrier would affect first responders getting in and out of the school.
“My understanding is the term of more permanent is going to be something a little bit better structured than what’s there now, but we will still be able to access it if we have to,” Hunt said. “It’ll (the gate) still be able to be swung open.”
Hunt said that a sloped curb similar to the one near the athletic fields at the Naugatuck High School will be installed, as well.
“The gate they put there now, if you ask me, looks a little flimsy,” Hunt said. “It’s going to be a little more secure and will still be able to swing open.”
Hunt said that section of the street on school property is not a public roadway but rather a cut-through.
“That is not an actual road from Andrew Avenue to Spencer Street,” Hunt said.
Hunt said the work will be paid for with grant funding the school board receives for security upgrades.
Burgesses argued the gate shouldn’t be permanently closed.
Burgess Jack DeOliveira said he understands the safety aspect during the school day, but added the road is used by residents as well as emergency personnel when school is not in session.
“I can see when there’s school in session, absolutely it should be closed, but when there’s no school such as the weekends or whatever it may be, summer, it should be open,” Burgess Bob Neth said.
Hunt said he will talk with Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini and report back to the board in February.
Montini and Board of Education Chairman Jeffrey Litke did not respond to messages seeking comment.