A Windham Country Sheriff cruiser is parked outside of the Brattleboro Area Middle School as security was heightened at area schools, this past January.
A Windham Country Sheriff cruiser is parked outside of the Brattleboro Area Middle School as security was heightened at area schools, this past January. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer file photo)
Wednesday March 13, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- More than a month after the doors were locked and law enforcement officials reported to the Brattleboro schools due to an undisclosed threat, the town school district is continuing to work on how to improve security, and also how much money to spend on the issue.

On Sunday, Jan. 27, a late-night call went out to parents throughout the district that someone had made a threat against the schools, and that security would be increased on Monday morning.

The vague message prompted about half the parents to keep their children out of school Monday morning.

Since then, the Brattleboro Town School Board has been trying to find the balance between welcoming families into their buildings, and making sure everyone is safe there during the school day.

"We like to have open schools, but we have had strong advice from experts that we should seriously consider making changes," said Brattleboro School Board Chairwoman Margaret Atkinson. "Now we are figuring out how that is going to look at each of the schools."

Not one of the three elementary schools in Brattleboro has a security system in place.

The School Board is waiting to receive quotes from a contractor on a range of solutions which include locked doors, buzzers, and perhaps video cameras for the town's three elementary schools.

The estimates range from about $3,000 to $8,000 per school, or more, depending on the extent of the systems and on the technology involved.

Even before the Jan.


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27 incident, the Brattleboro School Board was already having discussions about security following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The message that came out of a community forum following Sandy Hook was that Brattleboro should do more to control access to the schools.

A recent survey that went out to families at the schools found that almost 87 percent wanted the schools to take additional measures to improve security.

"We know there are strong feelings on both sides, but at least among the people who filled out a survey, there is desire to improve security," said Atkinson.

The principals will be asked to figure out what works best in each of their buildings, though she said each school will probably lock its doors and some kind of a buzzer system will be implemented.

But even as the School Board tries to come up with a plan, the bills are adding up for improving security.

The school district is spending more than $1,000 a week to have someone stay by the doors throughout the school day.

Atkinson said the board realizes that the new security systems will not be 100 percent foolproof. It will be hard to monitor the doors during the expanding after-school programs, and even Sandy Hook Elementary had a security system in place, which the killer shot through to gain access to the school.

"We want to get on this soon," said Atkinson. "This is something we know we have to do."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.