In the wake of last month's fatal school shooting in Newtown, Conn., earlier this month the Port Jefferson School District Board of Education expressed support to enact several school safety measures, some of which were taken immediately and others which will have to wait until warmer climes to find their way to the district.
Superintendent Ken Bossert noted that the measure which will have "the most profound effect on the day-to-day" operations within the district will be the addition of two school security guards: one at the high school/middle school, and another – now, the only security guard – at the district's elementary school.
"Having an extra set of eyes and ears monitoring the comings and goings, particularly on the elementary school campus, is a big enhancement," Bossert said. "Even when you talk about the large sum of money, it's certainly worth the benefit for the expense."
Between eight different proposals, Bossert said the board expressed support to spend $150,000 from its reserve fund, which currently exceeds $7 million. In particular, the funds will come from its Suffolk County Tax Act reserve, holding $1.02 million.
While some of those expenditures, such as adding a new public address system and a buzzer on one door, are one-time payments, salaried employees will have to be factored into the 2013-2014 budget – as well as future ones.
While the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School – which left 27 dead, including the shooter – has prompted a nationwide discourse over school security, Bossert said the discussion had been ongoing within the school district. The tragedy simply pushed the discussion to the fore.
"The truth of the matter is that we have been focused on safety updates that we would have liked to have seen long before Sandy Hook," Bossert said. "What Sandy Hook did for us, was give us the flexibility to move that up the timeline a bit. The public is focused on it now. The board of education is focused on it now."
Already in place, Bossert said a new sign-in procedure has been implemented which requires visitors to produce and surrender their photo ID upon entering school grounds.
"We've found that people are happy to be stopped shortly, even though it's a small inconvenience," Bossert said.
Security measures taken include:
- Buzzer doors: one entrance, one exit.
- Cost: $20,000
- Security cameras
- Cost: $22,000
- Additional fencing at middle/high school
- Cost: $15,000
- Additional walkie-talkies, repeater station
- Cost: $18,000 for repeater station; $2,000 for walkie-talkies
- Upgrades for public address station at middle/high school
- Cost: $17,000
- Two full-time security guards
- Cost: $54,000
- Desks (3) for security personnel
- Cost: $2,000
Some measures, such as placing interim security guards in schools, cameras and door buzzers, have already taken place. While the additional security staff has been hired immediately as substitutes, Bossert said the position has been posted and the board hopes to hire full time staff at its Feb. 12 meeting, at which point approval for the rest of the security measures is expected.
On Jan. 31, the superintendent will be holding a public comment session and taking in additional security suggestions from the public.
Correction: This article previously stated that the Board of Education had already voted on all measures. The board, according to Bossert, has expressed support for them and is expected to offer approval next month.