In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, and in light of new New York State mandates, the Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor school districts are considering security upgrades in advance of the coming school year.The changes for the Bridgehampton School District would help bring the district into compliance with the recently passed New York State Safe Schools Against Violence in Education (SAVE) regulation. The program, which was approved by the State Education Department in August 2011, seeks to promote a safe learning environment for all students.
“Districtwide school safety plans and building-level school safety plans shall be designed to prevent or minimize the effects of serious violent incidents and emergencies,” the regulation says, “and to facilitate the coordination of schools and school districts with local county resources in the event of such incidents or emergencies.”
Bridgehampton officials say the main focus for now is to revamp the main entrance to the school by creating a monitored vestibule. When visitors walk into the building, they will pass through two unlocked front doors into the vestibule. From there, a staff member in the main office will monitor the entrance by security camera and determine if they can enter the building through a locked door. If they are allowed in, visitors will be then buzzed through a second set of doors.
It is unclear at this time how much it will cost the district to install the new vestibule. At a board meeting on June 26, board members explained that a final design had not yet been selected.
Meanwhile, on August 5, the Sag Harbor Board of Education will be reviewing a security audit report done by a safety officer from Eastern Suffolk BOCES.
According to Sag Harbor’s interim superintendent, Dr. Carl Bonuso, many of the suggestions contained in the report either have already been implemented or are in the process of being followed up on, including expanded camera surveillance outside the school, a buzzer system requiring all visitors to identify themselves and their business before being granted access, automatic locks on doors, and additional hours for security personnel.
Dr. Bonuso also said that the district has been working with “our terrific partners in the [Sag Harbor] Village Police Department on our lock-down drills and procedures, incorporating their ideas and having them review our security plans.”
Dr. Bonuso added that, unlike some local districts that need to construct an entirely new monitored vestibule, Sag Harbor will just be reviewing the efficacy of its system, because “through careful planning we had money set aside in the budget last year to address those time-sensitive security upgrades.”
“When someone comes in, we have camera surveillance as they approach, they have to be buzzed in, and security personnel will be placed in the vestibule to see them walk in. We see this form of entry worthwhile in both [Sag Harbor school] sites,” he said, noting that the importance of having a single entry point has been emphasized to faculty, staff and students.
“A lot of what we’re doing by way of security has to do with mindset more than machinery. A lot of what we’ve done is just a review of proper protocols and procedures and emphasizing keeping up the proper vigilance,” he said.
The August 5 meeting in the Pierson High School library, which starts at 7:30 p.m., will be open to the public, and comments on the security audit report, as well as suggestions as to what further improvements could be made, will be welcomed.