School security ramped up following Sandy Hook - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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Schools implement new security measures following Sandy Hook shooting

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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

As students around the state head back to school, in many cases their schools have gotten security overhauls.

Districts took a hard look at what they could do differently to keep kids safe after the shooting at Sandy Hook. Some chose armed guards, while others went in a different direction.

Eyewitness News looked into some of the changes in place as students return to the classroom.

The debate on what makes a school safe has been a contentious issue for months.

In Enfield, school officials opted for armed guards, which was a decision that sparked controversy.

In Glastonbury, the superintendent isn't saying whether his guards are armed. He only said that some may "potentially" have weapons.

Administrators, parents and educators worked to beef up security in school over the summer.

"Quite honestly, after the horrific situation in Newtown, we knew it was time to make some changes after as well," said Meriden Superintendent Dr. Mark Benigni.

New measures that some districts have implemented include:

  • Drills
  • Collaboration with local police and fire
  • More police presence at schools
  • Upgraded door locks
  • Panic buttons

School officials are also focusing on better communication with parents, professional development and workshops and updating policies and procedures for emergency situations.

Eyewitness News visited schools in Plainville, Wallingford and Meriden to see what they are doing to keep students safe.

At Pulaski Elementary in Meriden, a split screen surveillance lets school staff in the main and central offices monitor anyone on school grounds.

"These cameras show us the exterior of the building and it also records any footage," said Benigni, showing the surveillance system. "So if there was ever any issue we could go back to the recording as well."

Once the bell rings and the school day starts, the doors are locked and visitors have to buzz in at the main office. A camera allows staff to see who is outside, and ask questions before they can sign in to enter the building.

"Parents and community members can know that there's no access to our buildings," Benigni said.

One thing schools in all three of the districts Eyewitness News visited had in common was a keyless entry card system, which allows only staff to access the building during the day.

Schools in Wallingford require not only a swipe card, but also a pass code.

Panic buttons were another new addition at Meriden and Plainville schools.

"We'd have the ability to lock down the school quickly and effectively from the main office," said Superintendent of Plainville Public Schools Jeff Kitching.

School officials said students have been actively participating in creating a safer school environment.

"I think they take safety very seriously," said Superintendent of Wallingford Public Schools Dr. Salvatore Menzo. "I think they take each others well-being seriously."

"We want to make sure our schools are still welcoming and inviting for students," Benigni said. "But at the same time, increased security features could better protect our students."

For these school leaders, they said they believe the key to a safe and comfortable learning environment is a balanced approach when it comes to changes in security.

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