Town Meeting on Feb. 25 will determine whether the Seekonk school district should receive $127,009 to begin a three-phase plan to improve security at the local schools. The school committee voted 4-0 Monday to support the funding.
School Committee Chair Mitch Vieira said the funding would cover the first phase, which is "mainly to allow the police and fire individuals who are in the building to communicate freely and not hit any cellular drop zones or radio drop zones while they are in the building."
Vieira said a private consultant did a security audit of the Seekonk schools shortly after the deadly mass shooting at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut. The audit combined with discussions among leaders of the school, police and fire departments led to the creation of the three-phase plan. The other phases, for which the school district will ask to be funded at a later time will cover "enhancing our access control and surveillance monitoring" and "safety reconstruction, including some physical structure changes," Vieira told Seekonk Patch after the meeting.
During Town Meeting, school district officials will make a presentation focusing on phase one, but it will also include information on the other phases, Vieira said.
School Committee member Brian Freitas said during the meeting Monday that paying for security measures was a necessary expenditure.
"Our request for money here is by no means a knee-jerk reaction to the unfortunate and tragic events at Sandy Hook late last year," he said. "This is a well-thought-out, well-planned process … to make our schools the safest buildings that they can be."
Interim Superintendent Arlene Bosco wrote in an email to Patch that she has received many questions about this issue since Monday. Because of this, she issued a statement to the media:
The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School is a sobering reminder that schools must be vigilant regarding the safety and well-being of students and staff. As with most school systems, it is timely that we review our current safety and security systems and protocols. Seekonk Public Schools has been diligent in this process and this was confirmed by results gleaned from a recent security audit.
Since most security measures span a wide continuum, we have prioritized a list of suggestions to expand our existing security measures. This process will be ongoing and closely coordinated with the police and fire departments.
At the request of the district, the Seekonk School Committee has recommended that the communication capabilities be aligned with recommendations from a recent Communications Audit conducted by both the Seekonk Police Department and the school department. At the town meeting on February 25, 2013, the district will request that monies be allocated for this purpose.