Region 16 takes steps to shore up security


REGION 16 — Safety has dominated discussion in school districts across the country in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last month. Region 16 is no different.

Since the Dec. 14 shooting, officials in Region 16 have been taking a close look at security in Beacon Falls and Prospect schools.

“It’s a work in progress. … It’s going to be a constant update and improvement,”

Superintendent of Schools Tim James said about school safety.

A security audit has been done at all the schools.

The audit was performed free of charge by Omni Data, a security firm out of Woodbridge.

James explained the company reached out the district following the shooting to offer its services.

“I jumped at it right away,” James said.

A team of school officials and representatives from Omni Data conducted the audits last week. Audits of Woodland Regional High School and Long River Middle School were done last Wednesday, while the elementary schools were audited last Friday.

The company was expected to finish its report this week, James said, and the recommendations are anticipated to be discussed at the Board of Education’s meeting next Wednesday.

Board member Robert Hiscox was among those present during the security audits. Hiscox said, at the board’s meeting last Wednesday night, that after the audits performed at Woodland and Long River he is confident that the region’s schools are safe.

“I feel very confident that our schools here are safe,” Hiscox said. “We are ahead of the curve in many regards with things that we were doing before the tragic events in Newtown.”

Hiscox said the schools can be safer and the audits will serve as a foundation from which enhancements can be made.

“Some of which might be costly, some of which we can do immediately, some of which we’ve already done and taken care of,” Hiscox said. “I’m very confident that we are providing safe environments for all of our students.”

Over the past month, the district has taken a number of other steps to tighten up security. All of the locks on exterior school doors were checked and those that needed to be upgraded have been so. Custodians in each school are now checking all exterior doors three times a day to ensure they’re locked.

Also, drivers making deliveries to schools will no longer be able to simply go to the back of the schools to make their deliveries. All drivers will have to check in with the school’s main office first and a staff member will remain with them until the delivery is complete. Those who do not have the proper identification will not be allowed into the school.

“They’re not going to be able to pull up to the back of the school and knock on the door,” James said.

A security advisory committee to review security practices and procedures will also be established and report to the board on a regular basis. James added he met with Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield, Beacon Falls First Selectman Gerard Smith and local law enforcement to discuss establishing an inter-town safety committee to deal with larger school safety issues as well.

James said he will put together a framework for the committee by the end of the month.

Chatfield told the board last week that school officials have the support of Prospect.

“We’re here to help you when the time comes,” Chatfield said.