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Stamford Police Release First Info from School Safety Assessment

After visiting all 12 elementary schools, the Stamford school safety task force addressed school and government officials with some of their preliminary findings.

Stamford schools are still looking for ways to improve their safety and this week, the task force assigned to reviewing safety protocols and procedures in the district began reviewing its findings with school and government officials.

Stamford Police officers met with members of the Board of Education Tuesday and Wednesday  to discuss their findings of a safety audit conducted to review the current safety plans and equipment on the books.

"The police department was presenting us with information on their review," said Board of Education member Jerry Pia. "They discussed visiting every elementary school and talking with staff at each. They talked about hardware and doors that needed some upkeep. They stated our schools were extremely safe, but there were things that needed to be fixed"

Pia said that, while the security audit needed to continue, there had been some highlights the police had listed as best practices so far, including security guards placed in each school. That city initially put guards on the books through February and, when Superintendent Winnie Hamilton next school year, the move seemed controversial within the community. Police disagreed.

"They liked double sets of buzzing doors idea, having that cut-off point, and they liked the security guards," Pia said. "They recommended keeping them through February and even expanding to two security guards per school."

Stamford Director of Public Safety Ted Jankowski said there are a lot of little things to address, like approximately 150 building doors that have locking issues, either with human error in keeping them locked or the ability to functionally lock them at all.

"There are a lot of things we need to review. There are things that we need to look at that are not necessarily not working, but that we could improve upon," Jankowski said. "We need to make sure all teachers and students are as safe as possible and have the environment available to them to keep them that way."

Jankowski said all doors must be able to lock and all teachers, including substitutes, must be in compliance with having keys on their person at all times.

Jankowski said the district would also be implementing the Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate (A.L.I.C.E.) program to make sure teachers and students knew exactly what to do in any situation that might involve and active shooter on scene.

"We want to make sure everyone involved, from teachers to students to administration is prepared for any type of incident or event, including those involving an active shooter," Jankowski said. "We need to make sure they are prepared and know how to react, be it for a lockdown or an evacuation."

The A.L.I.C.E. program has been introduced in five schools already, Jankowski said, and training would continue until all schools had been trained.

Jankowski said improvements would probably be necessary to Public Address systems in some schools that have areas where messages might not be heard. Following Wednesday night's meeting, Jankowski said PA systems need to be able to overtake an active fire alarm if the need arises.

"We need to make sure the PA systems have all areas covered and are accessible at the times they need to be heard," he said. "Communication is a key component of those types of incidents. The principal needs to know they can be heard by all teachers and students."

Jankowski also said camera systems need to be upgraded so that the entire exterior of a school building can be monitored. All classrooms should also have blinds installed, Jankowski said it was suggested, as well as a mesh that makes entry into a classroom from the exterior much more difficult.

 -- This article has been updated.

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