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Norwich shooting puts proposed meetings on school safety on hold

By Claire Bessette

Publication: The Day

Published January 09. 2013 4:00AM   Updated January 09. 2013 1:09PM

Norwich - Plans to improve school safety in the wake of the Dec. 14 Newtown shooting were sidelined temporarily by a shooting in the city Monday, in which a veteran city police officer was shot multiple times.

The Board of Education Tuesday held its first regular meeting since the Newtown elementary school massacre, just one day after the shooting at Cedar Glen Apartments on Cedar Street. Led by board member and retired police officer Robert Aldi, the board held a moment of silence in honor of Officer Jonathan Ley, who on Tuesday night was in fair condition at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

The board had hosted a public safety forum for parents in mid-December to hear ideas on improving school safety.

Superintendent Abby Dolliver told the board Tuesday that she plans to form a school safety committee with school, city and police officials as members, to address safety improvements. On Friday, Dolliver asked Police Chief Louis Fusaro to schedule meetings on the issue. But any such meetings immediately were put on hold Monday with the shooting at Cedar Glen apartments.

Dolliver said she met last week with school secretaries, whom she said are "in the front lines" of greeting visitors to the city's schools. She said secretaries must be comfortable with any safety policies put in place. She said she will meet next with custodians, who also interact with the public coming to the schools.

During the public forum, several parents said they wanted armed security in all city schools. Currently, the school system has school resource police officers in the two middle schools.

But Dolliver said she would insist that school safety enhancements in future budget proposals not be focused only on adding armed guards.

Dolliver said she will discuss recommendations for safety improvements Saturday at the first joint Board of Education/City Council budget workshop, scheduled for 9 a.m. at the city central fire station, 10 N. Thames St.

She said that if city officials agree to a bonding package for physical improvements, she would recommend upgrading the school system's aging phone system - which doesn't have caller ID - and adding security cameras inside and outside each school. Upgrading the phone system also could include adding panic alarm buttons, Dolliver said.

She said she also hopes to add mental health staffing, including school social workers and psychologists to city schools. Currently, schools share those positions.

Adding school resource officers to the elementary schools would be expensive, an estimated $90,000 to $100,000 per officer for 10 months in the school system, with the remaining two months with the police department and funded through the police budget.

c.bessette@theday.com

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