After the shocking tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., school systems around the country are examining and revamping their school security protocals. Coventry is no exception.
The Coventry School Committee approved new security measures at schools throughout the town Tuesday. While security was already adequate at most schools, Superintendent Michael Almeida said the tragedy in Connecticut brought security into sharper focus.
"We had a very good system in place but we're taking extra precautions," Almeida said. "We're working to beef up saftey and security in the schools."
The planned improvements include building a vestibule at the entrance of each school, forcing visitors to head directly to the office instead of being able to go in any direction into the school; adding more panic buttons in all schools; adding video surveillance and monitors to record all school visitors; adding locks to cafeteria doors; and improving front-door intercom systems where needed. The improvements may also include redesigning the interior of Western Coventry School so the school office is near the front door, and adding Jersey barriers in front of schools.
The School Safety and Security Committee — made up of town, school and police officials, including Almeida, Town Manager Thomas Hoover and Police Chief Bryan Volpe — approved the security improvements, which Almeida estimated would cost in the neighborhood of $150,000, though he said the town has not yet gotten final costs from vendors. Almeida told the School Committee Tuesday Hoover has agreed the town will pick up the cost of the improvements.
"We were very clear that the school department could not afford it," Almeida said Tuesday. "Just know the town is going to fund it."
However, the town has no intention of paying out of its budget either. Reached Wednesday afternoon, Hoover said he never made any commitment to fund the school security improvements, other than delivering Jersey barriers. He also offered to contact the vendor of a town video surveillance project to see if the school department could get a lower cost. But there was never an offer to pay, Hoover said.
"If he (Dr. Almeida) told the committee that, we need to talk about that. That's not true," Hoover said. "We didn't agree to pay for anything other than placing Jersey barriers. Certainly we didn't make that commitment."