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School Board Discusses Safety and Security Measures

A review of the school system's safety and security procedures was prompted by the deadly Newtown shootings.

Changes could be coming to Manchester Public School's safety and security procedures in the wake of last month'stragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown that claimed the life of 26 people, but what exactly those changes could entail members of the Board of Education were not ready to speculate or even publicly discuss Monday evening. 

As part of its meeting Monday, the school board received a report on school safety and security from Interim Superintendent Richard Kisiel and Manchester Police Chief Marc Montminy. 

"Our schools are not military outposts. You couldn't build a school with a wall thick enough, high enough, armed enough to guarantee the safety of all our children and employees," Kisiel said, but told the school board that there were a number of steps that the district could and would take in the wake of the Newtown shootings to better safeguard students and staff alike. 

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Kisiel said there were a number of "immediate actions" the district was putting into place to better improve school safety, while also establishing a "community task force" to put together a more in-depth plan to present to the Board of Education by March 11 that could make such recommendations as hiring security guards for all schools or purchasing identification and tracking software that can be immediately utilized whenever someone tries to enter district facilities. 

"It is a very expensive piece of software, but it was recommended," Kisiel said of the software, known as Raptorware, which runs a person's driver's license against a number of databases as soon as they enter a facility, including the sex offender registry and criminal background checks. 

Montminy noted that Manchester police have a sub three minute response time to emergency calls, compared to the national average of about 18 minutes, and have had training and past experience dealing with active shooting scenes, including the Hartford Distributors warehouse shooting in August of 2010. Montminy said that it is department policy to respond to the scene of a shooting as quickly as possible and engage the suspect immediately to prevent them from doing more harm. 

"Columbine taught police departments across the country a valuable lesson: while you're waiting and securing the perimeter, a gunman could be inside wreaking havoc," Montminy said. "The quicker you engage a gunman, the quicker the violence stops."

Several school board members said they had questions about some of the recommended security procedures under consideration, but wanted to wait until they received the final recommendations from the task force. Others said they did not feel comfortable talking about the security measures in a public forum and would save them for a private meeting with Montminy. 

"I'm not comfortable asking them in public, because I don't think that it's the right place to do it tonight," said Neal Leon, a Democratic member of the school board. 

In other news, Montminy told the school board that arrests have drastically declined at the town's public schools, down from a high of 137 arrests at Manchester High School and 30 arrests at Arthur H. Illing Middle School to just 21 arrests at the high school and four at the middle school so far this year. Montminy credited the drastic decline to the , which aims to keep children out of the justice system through a community-wide effort. 

"The numbers are staggering," Montminy said of the decline in school arrests. 

Wendy Weiss Videll January 15, 2013 at 02:47 PM
one of the things I am concerned with is how the gunman got into Sandy Hook. He shot out the glass panel next to the locked door. I would be curious to know if there has been any thought to getting rid of glass at the entrances and replace them with metal? It seems this would make sense in light of the recent tragedy.
Steve January 15, 2013 at 08:52 PM
Wendy - good thought, but just my opinion, then he'd just go to another area with windows he could shoot out, and you can't get rid of all the windows, like Dr. Kisiel said, there are no walls high enough, thick enough, and armed enough....
Jon Crickmore January 15, 2013 at 11:09 PM
Dr Kisiel that's a fantastic way to spend money. So lets say that someone who does not have a criminal record or is not a sex offender enters a school ? Oh that's right we already know what happens. Lanza wasn't a sex offender or a prior criminal. Let try and think about productive way's to spend other peoples money and not waste it on some " very expensive piece of software"
Greg January 16, 2013 at 02:56 AM
Many towns are holding open public hearing/sessions where the community comes together to learn what are their towns security measures and to ask questions and make recommendations. Along with this the school boards/administrations are waiting to finalize their proposed budgets in case there are costs associated with new or additional security measures . I would hope Manchester could hold these open meetings and of course modify the proposed budget the acting superintendent recently released.
kaeshi-waza January 17, 2013 at 12:04 AM
Manchester high security dept all have been trained in all area of safety and security, if there's a serious incident they will repond to it as quickly and carefully as possible. The police dept can count on the security to do it best to get people out of harms way if needed. If all recommendations can not get funded then why should they go through the motion. the kids and staff who work in the schools system should feel safe no matter what the cost is.....

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