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Finance board hears $63,000 Stonington school security plan

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: The Day

Published May 09. 2013 4:00AM

Stonington - Police and school officials detailed a $63,000 proposal to the Board of Finance Wednesday night to continue an increased police presence in the town's public and private schools, and to hold training sessions to assess the town's response to a school shooting.

Since the Newtown shooting, police officers have been making daily visits to the six public schools, Pine Point School and St. Michael School, using money saved from officer retirements. But police need additional funding to continue the stepped-up presence for 2013-14 school year.

Board of Police Commissioners Chairman Scott Bates called the plan a "reasonable response" to the Newtown shootings that could be sustained over time. He added commissioners did not want a constant armed presence in the schools.

Board of Education Chairwoman Gail MacDonald agreed, saying the plan was not the "over the top" response some communities have had by posting armed security or police in the schools.

"The (school) board feels that armed security is not the tone we want to set for our schools," she said.

Superintendent of Schools Van Riley said the increased police presence since Newtown has been welcomed by teachers, parents and students.

Earlier this year, the cost of the plan had been estimated at $100,000, but Police Chief J. Darren Stewart said after further research, the amount was reduced to $63,000.

A part of the $63,000 would be used for a training exercise that would test how police, firefighters, ambulance companies, area hospitals, town and school officials would respond to a school shooting.

Board of Finance Chairman Glenn Frishman said the board will await a more detailed plan before making a decision about whether to support the expenditure. Taxpayers would have to approve the additional $63,000 appropriation at a town meeting.

The town is already implementing a pilot program to test several security upgrades at West Vine Street School. One calls for panic buttons to be placed in each classroom and other locations that when activated announce an emergency to the school and immediately alert police. That system is slated to be in place by the end of June and could be expanded to other schools if the pilot program proves successful.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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