STONINGTON — District officials estimate needing to spend nearly $1.2 million on safety and security upgrades to the town’s schools over the next five years.
Nearly $500,000 of that needs to be spent in 2014, Superintendent Van W. Riley and Business Manager Bill King said, on security cameras, fence repairs, safety film for doors and windows and code red buttons, among others measures.
“We need to be very aggressive with safety updates,” Riley told board of education members at their meeting Thursday night. “We’re talking about student safety and what’s best for our children.”
Riley is proposing a total of $448,000 for security measures be included in the Board of Education’s Capital Improvement Plan, or CIP, budget for fiscal year 2014-15.
The board will vote on the CIP budget at its December meeting. If it’s approved, the budget is turned over to the town’s Board of Finance.
“There’s not one thing more important than the other,” King said. “These are all important measures.”
Actions include expanding a police safety alert project that was piloted at West Vine Street School to all five schools in the district: West Broad Street and Deans Mill elementary schools, and Pawcatuck and Mystic middle schools, and the high school.
The “red,” or “panic” button project was installed in the kindergarten through second grade, with buttons located throughout West Vine Street School. The enhanced security technology eliminates the need to call 911. Instead, the system could bring scores of emergency personnel to a school in minutes with the push of a button.
Costs to install the buttons vary for each school, from an estimated cost of $34,000 for Deans Mill to $88,000 at Mystic Middle. The middle school cost is higher because officials will have to replace the fire alarm system as well, so it’s compatible with the button system.
The installation of the code red system at Stonington High also will include the replacement of the entire fire alarm system.
Other security measures district officials want to complete in 2014 include putting up fencing and installing emergency strobe lights in areas of assembly for most of the schools, including the high school.
In 2015, officials want to create separate visitor entrances at every school in the district except for the high school, which already has one.
“We want to build walls so visitors have to go to the office,” Facilities Manager Ken Donovan said. “[For example,] at West Vine when you enter the building and go left, you’re right into the classrooms.”
King told the board that the district had some security measures in place even before the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown that killed 20 children last December forced districts around the country to examine their own school security.
Stonington added more measures post-Newtown, King said. All schools are equipped with local radios and there is increased police presence in all the schools. Board members Thursday unanimously supported additional hours for police officers at the schools.
“We want to move forward,” King said. “Momentum is in our favor.”
Riley’s proposed CIP budget for 2014-15 is $1.4 million — more than double what the district received for 2013-14. Besides security needs, the proposed CIP budget includes money to cover technology and roof repairs, primarily at Deans Mill.