In the wake of national tragedies in the last few years, officials in the Tuckahoe School District have opted to beef up security at the Magee Street elementary school and have installed roughly $33,000 worth of security upgrades this summer.
During a tour of the school on Monday night, Principal Kevin Storch outlined the changes that were installed over the summer, and showed where future improvements to the building’s infrastructure will be. Key changes include new security cameras, extra lighting outside to make classroom numbers visible from outside for first responders, upgrading technology, and a relocation of the front door monitor.
While administrators maintain that there have not been security issues at the district in the past, the meeting—which has been scheduled since midsummer—comes one week after parents from the Southampton School District, which Tuckahoe is considering merging with, called into question security at the one-school district.
“We have tried to cover all of the main entrances and exits with the new system,” Mr. Storch said. “We monitor all activity in and out of the building.”
The most visible changes to security come at the main entrance. In the past, visitors have had to check in with a school official at a desk just inside the front door. Now, visitors are directed to a window behind a glass partition, where they must sign in. They are then directed into the main office for further clearance.
Visitors will also notice new security cameras and keypads both inside and outside the building, including the entrance to the business offices. To control the cameras, a new high-definition monitor is being installed in the front office to view all eight security cameras at the same time. In total, the district spent $10,328 on the cameras.
The new school lighting, which was paid for as part of an Energy Performance Contract with the district, will light up the district playground and field. The LED lighting will no longer require bulb replacements, and will save electricity.
By putting classroom numbers on windows, the district has made it easier for emergency responders to find a room from the exterior in case of an emergency. To keep the numbers in place, they were installed, free of charge, by Johnson Controls, who were installing a film on the windows as part of the same EPC contract.
Over the summer, the district also spent $22,495 to install a new bathroom in each of the two prekindergarden classrooms. According to administrators, the bathrooms will ensure the safety of the districts youngest students, who are typically 4 and 5 years old.
“It is safer to keep them in the classroom with constant supervision than to have them leave the classroom for bathroom use with the older students,” district business administrator Keri Loughlin said this week.
While the district has already done a substantial amount of work to increase safety for students—noting that all students, faculty and staff participate in tornado, fire, and intruder drills, and doors to the building are always locked—the district is still looking to make the building a little safer. One option currently under consideration is to install a second set of doors at the main entrance, forcing visitors to be buzzed in twice before entering the main building. The three-member board of education is considering the plan.
“We are trying to maintain the security and safety of the kids while they still enjoy the facilities,” Mr. Storch said.