When Edward Pocock Jr. walked into DePaolo Middle School for the first time after being named to the town’s Middle School Building Committee more than a year ago, he was concerned at how easily he could have accessed any part of the building.
Pocock, chairman of the committee, identified himself at the front door as part of a security measure that has long been in place in town, but realized as he entered that there was nothing stopping him from skipping past the front office to go anywhere he wanted.
“I immediately thought to myself, ‘what if someone tailed me in?’ There is nothing to stop them from heading to the music wing, the cafeteria, anywhere in the school really,” Pocock said. “Security needed to be tightened and it was one of the first things we talked about.”
Security has always been of the utmost importance for Southington schools and the renovation designs at DePaolo and Kennedy Middle School are no exception, introducing a new entranceway and vestibule designed to eliminate the possibility of strangers entering the building unknown.
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The designs for the new middle schools put security first long before the tragic shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown that left 20 children and six adults dead, but the incident has put the importance of altering the entrance in a spotlight.
Melissa Sheffy, member of the building committee, and Newfield Construction Project Manager Thomas DiMauro said the schools would remain locked once classes begin and everyone coming or going will be required to use the main entrance.
The entrance will include a dual lock system that requires all visitors to identify themselves before being able to enter the building, with video cameras for staff to view the visitor before unlocking the doors. Once entering, everyone will have to go through the main office before entering the building, a measure implemented through a working committee that included school administrators, Operations Manager Fred Cox and input from School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr., Pocock said.
In addition, the glass will be reinforced to prevent someone from being able to break through a single panel to gain entrance.
“The working committee deserves all the credit,” Pocock aid. “When it came to security, this was something they put an emphasis on early. The safety of not only the students, but everyone at the school is always the number one concern.”
Furthermore, the contruction will include separate bathroom facilities in order to keep workers from interacting directly with students and will also require a badge system to assure all workers belong there.
“The ultimate goal is to assure that our students remain safe and that no one is in the building unless they belong there,” she said during a joint meeting with the Southington Board of Education earlier this month.
Middle Schools Not the Only Safety and Security Being Addressed
The school district on Tuesday will host a special community forum to discuss safety and security at all of Southington’s schools, as well as for children when school is not in session. The forum will be held at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at the Derynoski Elementary School and is open to anyone in the community interested in discussing concerns and ideas.
For more information, contact School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. at (860) 628-3202.
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