By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — About $105,000 in security improvements will be made at town schools in response to the murders of 26 people at a Connecticut school.
The School Board has unanimously backed a plan to install buzzers, monitors, cameras, intercoms and other security upgrades at Salem High School, Woodbury School and Soule, Fiske and Haigh elementary schools.
“We’re hoping it will start within the next month,” Superintendent of Schools Michael Delahanty said yesterday.
The security upgrades will be funded through the current school budget, he said, which means several paving projects scheduled for this year won’t be funded.
The board’s decision this week comes after nearly 100 residents turned out a public forum on school security earlier this month. Close to two dozen people questioned school officials or expressed concerns that the district’s schools weren’t safe enough. The forum was organized following the shootings Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Delahanty said the upgrades will help relieve parents’ concerns, but also will mean a “culture change” at the schools.
Main entrances will be locked at all times and visitors to the schools will have to be “buzzed in.” It will take a little bit longer than usual to enter the schools, he said.
All side doors are already locked, he said. The palnned work will include the installation of “panic buttons” in the main offices and equipping those offices with police radios. A security card system will be installed.
The upgrades will begin even though there’s no certainty voters will approve $17 million in renovations to the three elementary schools.
The proposed renovations included improvements to the schools’ entryways to enhance security. Delahanty has said it’s difficult for main office personnel at those schools to see who is entering the building.
Similar security improvements were made at the district’s three other elementary schools — Barron, Lancaster and North Salem — when they were renovated two years ago.
But the School Board agreed the work needed to be done as soon as possible, Delahanty said. He expects the improvements to be finished by mid-March.
School Board member Peter Morgan said yesterday he and his colleagues believed immediate action had to be taken.
“We decided it made a lot sense to do it now,” he said.