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Ridgefield Schools Seek $135K For New Security; Form Committee

Children at all of Ridgefield's nine public schools will be greeted each day by a security guard.
Children at all of Ridgefield's nine public schools will be greeted each day by a security guard. Photo Credit: Alissa Smith

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – It’s unclear where the Ridgefield School District will find an extra $135,000 to pay for security guards, but the decision to hire them and create a new security committee was agreed upon Monday night.

The district hired eight new full-time security guards for the seven schools that didn’t already have them following the tragic school shooting at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. Getting the guards in place before the winter break was key, said Superintendent Deborah Low, getting everything else in order was something that could wait.

“This is an unusual, even extraordinary staffing request in the middle of the year and it’s absolutely necessary,” Low said. “Unfortunately we live in a world where admitting people into the building cannot be done by the main office staff anymore.”

Where the money comes from won’t really be known until after the February budget report comes in, she said. Then they will be able to see where the district might be able to shift the money around so they can pay the prorated amount. If necessary, Low said, they’ll go to the town and ask for special dispensation.

The cost of security guards will increase in the 2013-14 year to around $210,000 since the district has to pay for the full year rather than just over half.  But finding the money is something that the new School Security Committee is charged with.

At Monday’s meeting the Board of Education formalized the committee, giving it a purpose, goals and members. Committee members come from all across the town, including all the school principals, First Selectman Rudy Marconi, Fire Chief Heather Burford, Board of Education Chair Austin Drukker and the district Technology Director Craig Tunks will chair the committee.

The committee members are also tasked with making sure that the public schools have the security that they need, which Low said means ensuring that the security guard has a desk, a buzzer for the doors, a computer and eventually access to live security camera feeds and the ability to check identification against several databases before letting people into the school.

Low also wants to request two more School Resource Officers from the police department, which, she said, costs more than a security guard and requires more training, but would also help better equip and train the school staff.

“The world, unfortunately, has changed,” Low said. “The whole purpose of all of this is because we want to provide the best care of our students during the day.”

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