CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – In the wake of the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month, the Katonah-Lewisboro Board of Education is considering contracting a consultant to perform a safety audit for buildings throughout the district.
Board trustees and district administrators said they knew it was important to do something that will help improve security and assuage the fears of parents, but noted that it was important to proceed thoughtfully.
“We are still absorbing Sandy Hook; it’s still sinking in,” said Schools Superintendent Paul Kreutzer. “I have a daughter in these schools. These are our schools. But this is the world we live in. We have to decide what we want our schools to look and feel like post-Columbine and post-Sandy Hook.”
Several board members said they weren’t in favor of posting armed guards throughout the district’s buildings.
“I don’t think an overt gun presence is the solution,” said board member Janet Harckham. “There is no real way to combat the real vulnerability of our schools. I mean, what are you going to do, have a gun in every classroom? It’s a complicated issue.”
Board member Stephanie Tobin echoed Harckham’s stance.
“The public is looking for some sort of answers right now, but I am not comfortable putting any firearms in our schools,” she said. “That even includes a trained officer. Statistically speaking, our schools are still a very safe place to be.”
The idea the board put forth was to employ a consulting firm that would perform a safety audit. The district would then form a committee which would help implement the recommendations resulting from the audit. However, some board members said they were reluctant to form yet another committee.
“Committees bother me,” Tobin said. “You kick the ideas down the road and they come out being watered down.”
But board member Peter Breslin said the school board and district administration already are overwhelmed with work, so taking on the task of implementing security protocols should be delegated.
“[The school board] doesn’t have the expertise, and the administration has enough to do,” he said. “We need someone who is focused on these issues, which is why I propose [a committee].”
Board President Mark Lipton added, “The audit company should come in with some next steps for us [after the audit] – the low-hanging fruit – before we look at the bigger issues. But we need to get a bigger idea of what the community’s tastes are.”
The board said it was inclined to move quickly on the matter, and Kreutzer noted he’d like to earmark some money in the upcoming budget for it, but administrators said they need to look closely at the costs and what the district would get for its money before any action is taken.
“It’s not surprising that I’ve been getting a lot emails from security companies lately – they’ve been coming out of the woodwork,” said Mike Jumper, the district’s superintendent of business. “We have to figure out who the reputable ones are.”