All Ridgefield schools will be staffed by on-site security guards and police officers following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that claimed the life of 20 students and six educators last month.
“I think all the schools in the country are looking at improving security,” said Ridgefield School Superintendent Deborah Low, following her 2013-14 school budget presentation Monday, which included details of school security improvements.
Some of the improvements have already been implemented, including the hiring of eight new security guards to ensure that each of the district’s nine schools have a guard on duty every school day. The Ridgefield schools already employed two security guards, so the new hirings will bring the total to 10. Low said one will be assigned to “float” between schools as needed.
The new security guards will not carry firearms, as was the suggestion of some gun-rights advocates, including National Rifle Association CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, following the Newtown shooting.
Low said school administrators are consulting with the Ridgefield Police Department over adding two more school resource officers as well. Presently there is one school resource officer assigned to Ridgefield schools.
Another prominent security improvement is a revision in the visitor management system for all the schools, including new personnel trained to check who visitors are before allowing them into the schools, plus new access systems and additional security cameras.
According to police investigators, Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old gunman who committed the Sandy Hook shooting, shot his way through glass to gain access to the school.
Low said Ridgefield’s school security review following the Newtown shooting focused on the visitor access system as something that could be improved.
“The idea of the main office people buzzing people in is out of date,” she said.
Adding more school resource officers to cover the elementary schools was something else that school and police officials decided to implement. Currently, the officers are only assigned to the high school and middle school.
“We need a police presence at the other schools,” Low said.
A statement on school security improvements has been posted on the Board of Education’s website.
It says that the new security guards would follow a check-in protocol for visitors that has been approved by the Ridgefield Police Department.
The statement said that district administrators are researching the use of new access control and visitor management systems, including a card swipe system for staff, increased surveillance cameras and electronic background database scans for visitors.
The Board of Education has also formed a new School Security Committee to facilitate improvements in consultation with the police, the Fire Department, the first selectman’s office, security consultants and other appropriate town departments. The Town of Orange has a similar structure in place as it moves to make its schools safer.
A number of Board of Education employees have attended workshops on school security during the past month since the Sandy Hook shooting, the statement on the website said.
During her budget presentation on Monday, the school superintendent said some funding decisions still have to be made, such as whether the cost of the new school resource officers and their vehicles would be included in the school budget or the police department budget.