Newly Formed School Security Task Force Makes Preliminary Recommendations

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

Looking for the most effective ways to quickly increase safety at Bedford’s four schools, Superintendent Jon Sills presented a preliminary list of recommendations to the School Committee on Tuesday night that would put front door security on a fast track while allowing more time for the newly formed Security Task Force to have conversations about policies and procedures.

“Following the events at Sandy Hook, we decided to convene a task force to take another look at our security measures, our protocols, our procedures,” Sills said. “We had done that in an in-depth way. . .back in 2009, but it’s always timely to review our procedures and see whether we can do a better job.”

The task force has met twice so far, Sills reported. The group includes parents, administrators, a school committee member, police and Bedford Youth and Family Services. Two of the four parents on the task force are security professionals: one in the realm of intelligence, the other in technology and hardware security apparatus. Additionally, Facilities Director Richard Jones has analyzed the buildings to see how structural changes might improve security, proposing entry reconfigurations with better sight lines so that office staff can better see and assess building visitors as they arrive.

Each of the four schools has generated a different set of concerns because of its physical layout and because of the age of its students. Looking at how front door security could be enhanced quickly at each of the schools, Sills presented a short list of measures with loosely estimated price tags for the School Committee’s consideration, including installation of windows to improve sightlines, magnetic door systems to close off parts of the school as desired, bullet-proof glass walls or partitions, video cameras, an external door alert system,intercom and buzzer systems and ID swipe cards or personal entry codes.

Sills expressed the sentiment that these quick actions would result in putting everyone at greater ease. “Right now, the principals of all four schools would like the front doors locked,” he said.

Besides building security, Sills said that the task force is looking at “a whole range of issues,” such as reviewing traffic patterns at each of the schools, dismissal procedures before and after school sports, anti–bullying measures, student support availability, compliance with procedures to keep buildings secure, and improvement of school cultures.

Additionally, the Task Force has looked at other schools’ security practices and has gathered input from Bedford parents at roundtable-type meetings.

“[We are also studying] how we weigh costs and benefits and how we balance the desire for security with the desire to maintain Bedford’s educational culture, which is one [that] is very school-centered and wants to create an environment where kids feel free to grow,” Sills said.

School Committee member Ed Pierce agreed that it will take some time “to wrap our heads around [the idea] that you now have to lockyour doors. It’s like your household: You used to leave the doors open and not worry about it and it all changed. This is a public building and it’s the type of thing where you expect it to be inviting, expect it to be open. . . .There’s this balance of whether we’ve cut off access [that people expect and rely on] but have we really cut off access? Because someone who’s a schemer will understand where the vulnerabilities are and could exploit the vulnerabilities we haven’t thought of or can’t do anything about.

“That’s not to say that we [wouldn’t]do these things [on the list of recommendations.] Some of these are now of basic,” Pierce added.

Committee member Abbie Seibert said that most of the recommendations seemed “pretty benign,” given her experience with far more rigorous security systems and protocols at many other schools she has visited.

Partial funding for the accepted recommendations is available from several sources, including the remaining funds in the high school building account and as-yet-unused flooring and painting funds from former capital appropriations. If those amounts do not stretch to cover everything, Chair Anne Bickford said that the Committee would consider approaching the Finance Committee with a request for a reserve fund transfer.


Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
JOHN STELLA
JOHN STELLA
9 years ago

I WOULD RECCOMEND THE BEDFORD SCHOOL COMMITTEE TO INSTALL X-RAY MACHINES IN THE FRONT LOBBY OR FRONT ENTERANCE IN ALL 4 SCHOOLS . THIS WILL PROTECT ALL 4 SCHOOL BUILDINGS .
THE ONLY WAY DO THIS , JUST LIKE AIRPORTS WHERE THEY INSTALLED X -RAY MACHINES . IF YOU WANT SCHOOLS TO BE SAFER COPY THAT FROM THE AIRPORTS.
I ALSO RECCOMEND SCHOOL COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER TO HIRE SECURITY GUARDS .
THIS IS SMART APPROACH.

1
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x