Changes could be coming to Manchester Public School's safety and security procedures in the wake of last month'stragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown that claimed the life of 26 people, but what exactly those changes could entail members of the Board of Education were not ready to speculate or even publicly discuss Monday evening.
As part of its meeting Monday, the school board received a report on school safety and security from Interim Superintendent Richard Kisiel and Manchester Police Chief Marc Montminy.
"Our schools are not military outposts. You couldn't build a school with a wall thick enough, high enough, armed enough to guarantee the safety of all our children and employees," Kisiel said, but told the school board that there were a number of steps that the district could and would take in the wake of the Newtown shootings to better safeguard students and staff alike.
Kisiel said there were a number of "immediate actions" the district was putting into place to better improve school safety, while also establishing a "community task force" to put together a more in-depth plan to present to the Board of Education by March 11 that could make such recommendations as hiring security guards for all schools or purchasing identification and tracking software that can be immediately utilized whenever someone tries to enter district facilities.
"It is a very expensive piece of software, but it was recommended," Kisiel said of the software, known as Raptorware, which runs a person's driver's license against a number of databases as soon as they enter a facility, including the sex offender registry and criminal background checks.
Montminy noted that Manchester police have a sub three minute response time to emergency calls, compared to the national average of about 18 minutes, and have had training and past experience dealing with active shooting scenes, including the Hartford Distributors warehouse shooting in August of 2010. Montminy said that it is department policy to respond to the scene of a shooting as quickly as possible and engage the suspect immediately to prevent them from doing more harm.
"Columbine taught police departments across the country a valuable lesson: while you're waiting and securing the perimeter, a gunman could be inside wreaking havoc," Montminy said. "The quicker you engage a gunman, the quicker the violence stops."
Several school board members said they had questions about some of the recommended security procedures under consideration, but wanted to wait until they received the final recommendations from the task force. Others said they did not feel comfortable talking about the security measures in a public forum and would save them for a private meeting with Montminy.
"I'm not comfortable asking them in public, because I don't think that it's the right place to do it tonight," said Neal Leon, a Democratic member of the school board.
In other news, Montminy told the school board that arrests have drastically declined at the town's public schools, down from a high of 137 arrests at Manchester High School and 30 arrests at Arthur H. Illing Middle School to just 21 arrests at the high school and four at the middle school so far this year. Montminy credited the drastic decline to the , which aims to keep children out of the justice system through a community-wide effort.
"The numbers are staggering," Montminy said of the decline in school arrests.