In the year following the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, school districts around the nation have grappled with how to protect their students, teachers and staff from harm. The New Fairfield community is facing the same questions and challenges, and has come together to explore the best solutions for our town. Over the course of the past year, members of the public have attended Board of Education, Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen meetings to voice their concerns and offer suggestions. The Boards also hosted a Community Forum in March of last year to address school safety and security which was attended by about one hundred concerned residents. Public comment was overwhelmingly in favor of additional School Resource Officers (SROs) and a thorough security audit of all four schools.
In collaboration with the Resident State Trooper Sergeant, the Board of Selectmen recommended a plan to the Board of Education and Board of Finance to provide additional SROs for Consolidated and Meeting House Hill Schools. This plan was implemented in April, 2018 and followed by the addition of an SRO in the Middle School at the start of the following school year. This year, we added funding to the budget to hire a full time officer to staff these positions more cost effectively.
In the months following the tragedy in Parkland, we convened the School Safety and Security Committee with representatives from the Board of Education, Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen, the Resident State Trooper Sergeant, the Superintendent of Schools, the BOE Director of Business and Operations, the Emergency Management Director and the BOE Director of Buildings and Grounds. The Committee is charged to review all applicable information and make recommendations to the Boards of Selectman, Finance, and Education on necessary measures to improve the safety of children in New Fairfield Schools and the security of those schools. The committee commissioned three audits of our schools, conducted by a private consultant, our insurance carrier, and the CT Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. The Committee has reviewed the results of the audits and has recommended enhancements to school safety while continuing to evaluate the impact of the audit results.
Most recently, voters approved funding to construct a Security Operations Center (SOC) within the district to enhance our current building surveillance. The SOC will be staffed during the school year by a certified Dispatcher. The Committee has also discussed the need for qualified school safety experts to review plans for new school construction to ensure that the new buildings are designed and constructed in accordance with current safety standards, should the upcoming referendum be approved by voters in the fall. Working together, the BOS, BOF, BOE, Town and BOE staff have made significant improvements to school safety and security, and continue to collaborate to make further recommendations.
– Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman