NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – Much of the discussion at a meeting of the Northbridge School Committee on Tuesday night centered on security.
The School Department may request, either through raising and appropriating or debt exclusion at the spring annual town meeting, about $246,000 to improve the safety of students and teachers at each of the district’s four schools.
In addition, School Superintendent Nancy Spitulnik said the district is considering changing its policy in response to an “active shooter emergency’’ from passive to active, something that will be discussed further by the school board and may include a public hearing for parent input.
Following the massacre of 26 children in a Newtown, Conn. school a month ago, safety committees were formed in Northbridge Elementary, Balmer, Northbridge Middle and Northbridge High schools, Spitulnik noted.
Committee members did a safety walk through each school with Building Maintenance Director Paul Halacy, Police Chief Walter Warchol and Police Detective Timothy Labrie, she said.
The result was a list of capital safety purchase that include “safe school’’ door hardware which will allow classroom doors be locked from inside the room, estimated cost $110,000; key-card security locks at main and kitchen doors of each school, estimated cost of $25,000; additional security cameras, estimated cost of $102,655; and security film covering on some school windows, estimated cost of $8,700.
The capital safety purchases will be discussed when the School Committee brings its fiscal 2014 budget before the Finance Committee at a meeting on March 6.
“The biggest discussion was on our procedure for lockdown,’’ Spitulnik said of the safety committee meeting held recently with the police chief.
The procedure currently used has been in place for many years, she said, and basically suggests locking doors and hiding. It has been determined that “being passive is not the best way to respond to an active shooter in a school,’’ she said.
“A new model emphasizes a more active approach,’’ she said, such as barricading doors and throwing things at an assailant.
That new approach, called ALICE, was detailed in a seminar held by District Attorney Joseph Early recently and attended by Halacy, Labrie and Patrolman Thomas Dejordy, Spitulnik said.
“A lot of districts have moved to the new model,’’ she said, but changing will require training for administrators, teachers and students.
Before moving to a new model, “we’d want to include all stakeholders in the discussions,’’ Spitulnik said.
A PDF of the ALICE procedures is attached.