2 cities work to keep their schools safe
With Nashua spending $2.4 million to upgrade security in the city’s schools, the Board of Education is reviewing a district-wide school safety policy.
Members of the board’s Policy Committee have started crafting a set of rules and procedures that cover a range of safety measures such as identification badges for adults, surveillance cameras and locked doors.
“Our intent is to have reasonable security on the perimeter of the schools and control of the interior,” said Superintendent Mark Conrad, who added the goal is to strike a balance between safety and a public school environment in 16 buildings.
In Manchester, school officials are waiting for the results of security audits being conducted at four city schools by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“It kind of gives you a barometer of where you’re at,” said Ron Robidas, the city’s security manager.
“They don’t tell us what to do with the information,” Robidas said. “It should lead to concrete improvements in the school.”
Former school superintendent Thomas Brennan said he was told the four schools undergoing audits should not be publicly named. He earlier identified two of them as Central High School and Beech Street Elementary School.
Meanwhile, the Manchester district is pursuing grants to help pay for upgrades to the room-to-room intercom systems at elementary schools, he said.
Nashua committee members reviewed parts of a proposal that would require all adults in city school buildings to have a badge or pass that identifies who they are and what their role is in the building. Teachers and school staff will have electronic photo ID badges that can be used to lock and unlock doors to classrooms and to the building where they work.
All visitors and volunteers will be required to sign in and out at the main office and to wear a temporary badge or pass that displays their name, the school and the date.
Once school begins, all doors to buildings will be locked. Cameras will monitor visitors who arrive and ring a buzzer at the front entrance. School staff will ask each visitor for their name and the reason for the visit to make sure no one entering the building poses any type of risk to students.
“It’s the right of the school to deny access when visitors don’t have, or refuse a request to show a photo ID,” said Conrad, who added that past problems have typically involved custody disputes.
“Or it may be parents who don’t trust what’s occurring in a classroom,” he said. “Those issues will be resolved at the entrance.”
Policy Committee members Thomas Vaughan, Dennis Ryder William Mosher and David Murotake will spend at least one more meeting reviewing other issues such as video and audio surveillance equipment, emergency planning with city officials and training for staff to recognize and respond to behaviors that could signal potential risks before hammering out a final policy recommendation to present to the full board.
“We’ve been looking at this for a while,” said Mosher. “But after Sandy Hook, we decided we have the money and now is the time.”
New Hampshire Union Leader Staff Writer Michael Cousineau contributed to this report.