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Westport Parents Propose Ways To Increase School Safety

The flag outside Coleytown Elementary School in Westport flies at half-staff Monday in remembrance of the victims of Friday's mass shooting Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The flag outside Coleytown Elementary School in Westport flies at half-staff Monday in remembrance of the victims of Friday's mass shooting Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School. Photo Credit: Vanessa Inzitari

WESTPORT, Conn. – School safety is on many Westport parents’ minds after a mass shooting claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning.

Although a number of security measures are already in place at Westport schools — including that visitors need to be buzzed into school buildings — parents are wondering how, if at all, security can be increased.

“I think the district does a great job in terms of security, but there is always room from improvement, like with anything else,” said Melanie Page, who was picking up her 8-year-old stepson Sean at Coleytown Elementary School on Monday afternoon.

In response to Friday’s shooting, Westport Police Chief Dale Call said police presence will be increased at every Westport school throughout the week. More officers will be patrolling the areas around schools as often as possible and parking outside schools during arrival and dismissal, Call said in an email Monday.

“We've tried not to be really specific with details, but [officers] are not very far away as often as possible with both a marked and unmarked presence,” Call said.

Although it’s comforting to know police will be doing extra patrols, “It’s only going to be a temporary thing,” Page said. In the long term, an officer should be inside every school during school hours, she said.

“Locking the doors at school and requiring visitors be buzzed in is great, but it’s my understanding that the same was true in Newtown,” Page said. It’s been reported that the killer shot his way into the school.

“Having an officer inside each school, I think, would put parents’ minds at ease,” Page added. “God forbid someone was to get inside a school; help would already be there.”

The Westport Daily Voice asked readers on Facebook whether they would like to see an officer inside each school. Some welcomed the idea and others didn’t.

Reader Whitney Cusa said she likes the idea but doubts it’s financially feasible. Reader Jill Kalman said the idea is worth examining.

“I think until they upgrade other security measures and begin to resolve other things, we need something like that in the interim,” Kalman wrote.

Schools should get rid of glass doors, Kalman said, and the district should consider installing “panic buttons in the offices and maybe even classrooms that directly get the police to the scene without even a phone call.”

Reader Juris Zauls liked the idea of silent alarms but was not sold on changing out the front doors. Zauls also opposed having a police officer in each school.

“Look, the only problem with changing out glass doors is that schools have windows,” Zauls wrote. “I also don't want our kids to think that it’s normal to have a police officer in their school at all times.”

At Monday night's Board of Education, Superintendent Elliott Landon said the district will conduct an audit on school security procedures to see where enhancements can be made.

To read more about what parents said on the issue of school security, visit our Facebook page .

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