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Somers Schools Chief Offers Possible Security Upgrades

Security at Somers schools was discussed at last week's Board of Education meeting.
Security at Somers schools was discussed at last week's Board of Education meeting. Photo Credit: Katherine Pacchiana

SOMERS, N.Y. – In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, the Somers School District is evaluating an extensive revision of its school security procedures.

At last week's Board of Ed meeting, Superintendent of Schools Raymond Blanch discussed some possibilities of revising current school security measures.

They include the following:

  • Installing entry buzzers and security cameras at all main entrances. “External doors would be locked except at the beginning and the end of the day,” Blanch explained. “At other times, you would have to be buzzed into the building.”
  • Implementing a visitor ID system, whereby all visitors must present valid identification, be included in a central database and issued a temporary ID pass. “The system also does background checks and a red flag comes up if someone is questionable,” said Blanch.
  • Additional and/or more sophisticated surveillance systems. Blanch explained that both the high school and middle school already have security cameras, which are accessed by the principal and basically used to monitor student discipline. Both Primrose Elementary School and the Intermediate School would need to have cameras installed. All camera systems might be tied into central monitoring stations, possibly overseen by private unarmed security personnel or the local police.
  • Panic buttons with direct connection to law enforcement could be installed at various points.

“Will this come out of our current budget?” asked board President Sarena Meyer.

“The smaller costs will,” responded Blanch. “But we won’t know about the rest until we look at the budget again in February.” Additional security personnel and monitoring could come to $120,000 to $160,000 annually, he added.

“If you get to the point of using a panic button, it’s already too late,” commented Trustee Ifay Chang.

Trustee Harvey Kriedberg agreed. “It’d be much better if you could stop an incident before it got into the building.”

He asked, “When it comes to the term, ‘lock down,’ does the teacher have the ability to lock his/her own room?”

Blanch said no. “For example, some rooms don’t even have doors."

??“Well, suppose a teacher is in a room like that? Are there provisions and instructions for that teacher?” asked Kriedberg. “Also, is there a chain of command if the principal isn’t there?”

“There are protocols for those things,” said Blanch.

“Are we actually reducing risk or just making ourselves feel better?” asked Trustee Michael D’Anna. “Let’s face it, these schools were not designed with security in mind. Now we’re trying to retrofit them. The kids go outside to play. Would we really be reducing risk? If so, then it is important.”

“I’m concerned about making the kids feel the school is unsafe,” said Meyer. “Extra security might make them feel like we created a scary place. Kids should concentrate on being kids.”

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