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School building safety, surveillance considered by Preston Board of Education

By Claire Bessette

Publication: The Day

Published January 16. 2013 4:00AM

Preston - The Board of Education met for more than two hours behind closed doors Monday night to discuss school security systems and improvements that could be approved at the February board meeting.

Superintendent John Welch said the board met with school administrators and security consultant Gene Pupa of Alarming Designs to discuss perimeter security, interior building security, communications and surveillance.

Welch said he could not elaborate on details, as they involve security measures. The state Freedom of Information law allows municipal agencies to go into executive session to discuss "matters concerning security strategy or the deployment of security personnel, or devices affecting public security."

Welch said the board may vote on some of the issues at its Feb. 11 meeting, when the board also is expected to hear a presentation on the 2013-14 school budget. Welch said some of the security items could end up in the budget, while others could be part of a future capital expenditure request.

Separate from security systems, the town's two schools already have changed security protocols in everyday routines to keep better track of visitors and activities in the outdoor playgrounds.

Visitors might be asked to hold a photo ID up to the camera at the outdoor buzzer before being allowed to enter. School staff will ask if the person has an appointment and verify that information. All visitors must stop first at the office to receive a visitor's badge and sign in.

Parents dropping off late students no longer will be allowed to walk them to their classrooms, Welch said.

To improve communication between the school and outside playground areas, teachers on playground duty will have push-button phones connecting them to the school office. Welch said the new system also will help if a student is injured or becomes ill on the playground.

"Communication in any crisis is critical," he said.

Welch sent a letter to parents last week outlining the new visitor badge system and announcing that all school staff will be given ID badges in the coming weeks. Staff will be asked to wear the badges at all times on school grounds, he said.

"This may seem like a small and trivial detail - especially if you think that everybody knows you - but in truth, it is a very important component to maintaining a safe and secure environment," Welch wrote to parents regarding the visitor badges.

c.bessette@theday.com

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