NORWALK, Conn. – New doors, locks and communication systems are on the way for Norwalk schools as part of ongoing work to improve school safety.
Last week, the state announced the first round of grants for school security improvements to 169 schools across Connecticut, as part of the legislation passed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The grants will go toward new infrastructure, including locks, communications systems, surveillance systems and other permanent improvements.
Norwalk received $29,305 from the state grant program, which will be added to a $66,902 contribution from the school district’s budget. The funding will be distributed to 14 school buildings for security upgrades.
“Nothing could be more important than ensuring the safety of our children, particularly while they are studying at school,” state Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk, Darien) said.
Many of the specifics programs and improvements are not being discussed because of security concerns. Norwalk Schools Superintendent Manuel Rivera told the Board of Education last week that the Norwalk Police Department is conducting in-depth security assessments of all Norwalk Public Schools, with 10 of the 19 studies finished.
Much of the improvement money will go toward small upgrades in Norwalk, such as new locks, doors and window enhancements, he said.
For example, some windows at the Cranbury School were found to be missing blinds, allowing people to see into classrooms. This could cause problems if the school were to go into a lockdown, as it did briefly earlier this month due to a false alarm. At Tuesday’s meeting Rivera called the event an “eye-opener” that the district needs to improve its infrastructure.
“Goals have been established, and we are making good progress toward them,” Cranbury Principal Robin Ives said on the school website.
Rivera also told the board that he plans to improve communications systems to better inform parents of large-scale emergencies. One possibility is a text message-based system, which would work like the town’s Reverse-911 calls. A system could be in place as soon as October, according to the meeting’s minutes.
“We must ensure that our schools are as safe and secure as possible, and these funds will enable us to make a variety of security improvements at schools all across Norwalk,” said Rivera. “It is certainly a timely program.”