Southold schools mull security enhancements and upgrades

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04/24/2014 12:00 PM |
The Southold School District. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

Southold High School. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

Southold school officials are looking into new security features like scanning visitors’ driver’s licenses and installing exterior cameras in an effort to enhance safety throughout the district.

During the school board’s regular meeting Wednesday night, Superintendent David Gamberg said a committee met for over an hour earlier in the day to discuss improving safety.

The meeting was prompted after a parent asked the school board at the March 26 meeting to look into hiring a security guard.

The committee is compromised of Mr. Gamberg, Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley, the district’s principals, as well as a few teachers, staff members and Scott Latham, a school board member and town police sergeant. A representative from Eastern Suffolk BOCES was also at the meeting and discussed how other districts throughout the county have improved safety, the superintendent said.

Schools across the country have been upgrading their security systems since 27 people — including 20 children and the gunman — were killed December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

[2013 Suffok Times Special Report: School safety after Sandy Hook]

Plans are already in the works in Southold to relocate the high school principal’s office closer toward the main entrance in an effort to enhance security, Mr. Gamberg said, adding the district is applying for grants to help new technology and equipment purchases.

One option the committee discussed was a new screening process where each visitor would have their driver’s license scanned. The system informs the school if a visitor has a criminal background, Mr. Gamberg said.

“Hopefully nothing comes up, but, once it gets into the system, it’s tracked,” he said. “When they return, they don’t have to go through a long wait to just simply get an ID badge for the day.”

Exterior cameras and an enhanced public address system were also mentioned as safety improvements, Mr. Gamberg said.

Mr. Latham said he believed the committee came up with a lot of good ideas that aren’t too expensive. One suggestion was purchasing eight door alarms for about $2,000, he said.

“This isn’t a response to any threat — it’s just routine to look at what we need to do to make the building more secure,” Mr. Latham said.  “Through technology we’ll be able to enhance security without making it a prison.”

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