School board to prioritize security upgrades

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 Reg16REGION 16 — Security improvements will be the topic of a special Region 16 Board of Education meeting this week.

The school board, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, is scheduled to meet July 31 at 6:30 p.m. at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls to begin prioritizing security improvements for the region.

School security became a main concern of districts across the country following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last December.

Superintendent of Schools Tim James said officials have put together a comprehensive list of upgrades the district would like to have that carries an estimated price tag of $2 million.  

“Realistically, I don’t think we have to have everything to have secure schools,” said James of the list.

The desired upgrades include more exterior and interior surveillance cameras for the schools, James said. The district is also looking to change its camera system from an analog to a digital one. The digital system would allow police officers to tap into the feed when they are responding to an emergency, he said.

There are some wanted upgrades school officials haven’t and will not make public citing safety concerns, James said.

The board will go through the list to pare it back to what members feel are the most vital improvements. How those improvements are paid far will also have to be determined.

Board members have discussed putting together a bond package to cover security upgrades. Any bond package would have to be approved by voters in Beacon Falls and Prospect. School officials are eying a possible referendum for the fall, in either October or November, if they decide to go with a bond package.

The board could also decide to pay for improvements through the budget. Funds set aside for security upgrades were removed from this year’s budget during the planning process.

James said a 3-to-5-year-plan would likely have to be developed to pay for the improvements through the budget.

The school board approved the first readings of a number of policy revisions and new policies that deal with school safety at its meeting last week.

Board member Robert Hiscox, who chairs the policy committee, said the revisions and new policies bring the district up to date with state law. James added they also set the district up to apply for state funding earmarked for security improvements.

“These are very important and we need them in place for the new year,” board Chair Priscilla Cretella said.

(Editor’s note: The article in the July 26 edition reports the meeting starts at 7 p.m. The time was changed to 6:30 p.m. following the school board meeting.)