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Suffield Officials Take Steps Toward Safer Schools

Suffield Schools Superintendent Karen Baldwin, Board of Education Chair Sue Porcello and First Selectman Ed McAnaney will meet this week to discuss safety measures at school buildings, a topic high on the priority list after the Newtown school shootings

During Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting, Suffield School Superintendent Karen Baldwin updated members on new safety measures in the district.

According to the superintendent, safety policies are already in place but will now be updated. Teachers will receive additional training and are already practicing lock-down drills and preparing for a variety of different scenarios including bus accidents and playground incidents.

Baldwin said the district has already invested approximately $10,000 on video surveillance equipment in the middle school and McAlister as well as a buzzer system for entry into the building.

Board member Jeanne Gee mentioned the possible need for new policies underway for the public buildings during after hours activities. According to Baldwin, the doors are to be unlocked for access, but custodians will secure the buildings more stringently before and after.

Also important is ensuring the public announcement systems are serviced and working well in the schools as well as creating a system for all administrators to be connected in communication during emergencies.

Board Chair Sue Porcello pointed out the upgrades to communications systems and security could cost in the $50,000 range.  These costs need to be shared with the town, who ultimately oversees the buildings, she said.

“Our budget is tight,” Porcello explained. “These things have to be done as a town, not just a board of education.”

Superintendent Baldwin and Porcello plan to work with the first selectman as well as the police chief. The district already has a school police officer who rotates between the buildings, and Baldwin hopes to enhance that with additional police presence around the buildings as well as having the officers connect to the kid within the schools, maybe even attending lunch-times and activities.

Most importantly, she emphasized the district as a safe place for children to attend school.

“I want to remind the board the great thing in place here is the school climate and culture,” said Baldwin. “Knowing we have caring adults in the community who students can go to.. that’s how we fundamentally keep children safe.”

Parents at the board meeting supported the new measures and even suggested the schools ask the community for help in fundraising for equipment.

Baldwin said a letter outlining the changes would be sent to parents as well as placed on the district’s website page http://www.suffield.org/home

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