Scotia-Glenville School District officials are planning to spend up to $50,000 to install new intercom and buzzer systems at building entrances in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.
Superintendent Susan Swartz said the new intercom system would be installed by September. People would press a button and it would ring phones in the office to alert staff that someone is requesting to enter the building. The doors would be locked.
It is somewhat expensive to put in these systems because they cannot just be slapped onto the existing doors. The district has to retrofit the doors.
Putting in the new system was one of the recommendations of safety consultant Mike Needham, who recently presented his findings to the Board of Education.
Needham said the district is doing a good job overall at adhering to safety procedures. During his visits to the schools, he and his colleagues tried to wander around the building without identification and were immediately stopped.
However, he said there are some improvements the district could make. One would be to develop a comprehensive visitor sign-in procedure and make it consistent throughout the buildings. Needham said visitors should be asked to provide their phone numbers on the sign-in sheet. That way, if there were an emergency such as a fire and a visitor had left the school using a different door, firefighters wouldn’t think that person was still in the building.
Another recommendation is to reduce the number doors people can use to get into the building to one, ideally.
“You really want the fewest number of practical points of access,” he said.
That way, visitors would be forced to go to that door and staff would be able to see them before letting them enter.
Needham said the situation could be more than just somebody threatening to do harm at the school. Maybe the person at the door looks intoxicated or is acting jittery. The person wouldn’t be let in and wouldn’t have free run of the building.
“It’s about buying time, protecting as many people as we can while police are coming to do their job,” he said.
Also, Needham said the district should consider additional monitors after school when there is less staff in the building. Night custodians and other staff might benefit from training.
A long-term recommendation would redesign the main entrances to the schools so there are double sets of doors. The first set of doors would open to a vestibule and there would be a bank teller-like window that would allow school staff to see the visitor before they let that person enter to sign the visitor log.
Needham also suggested access cards that would unlock the door rather than keys, which are difficult to track as staff turns over. Cards would be easier to deactivate for someone who no longer is working for the school.
The district should consider adding monitors and upgrades to security cameras, according to Needham.
In addition, Needham said the student walkway between the middle school and high school buildings should be evaluated by the district’s engineering firm. The campus is located in the middle of an industrial park with a lot of truck traffic.
Swartz said the intercom system is the short-term solution. The cost of redoing all the entrances would be close to $1 million total, so the district could include that in another capital project. It just wrapped up a $12 million initiative and will be talking about the next one, according to Swartz.