School safety upgrades
Parkview, Lincoln entrances revamped
By Scott Bellile
Parkview and Lincoln elementary schools kicked off the new school year with upgraded security entrances.
The schools’ student populations are smaller and younger than at the high school, but School District of New London Business Services Director Joe Marquardt said that doesn’t mean the potential doesn’t exist for an act of violence.
“I don’ think we can ever categorize a school being higher or lower risk than others,” Marquardt said. “I think we have to be equally concerned about the safety of our buildings regardless of the ages of our students.”
With that in mind, over the summer construction crews installed doorways at both schools that wall off the visitors from students and staff. Guests must pass through three barriers before reaching the rest of the school.
The upgrades were funded through a $2 million referendum that voters approved in 2014. They follow security upgrades at New London Intermediate/Middle School last summer and New London High School in 2015.
Before the upgrades occurred at these four schools, visitors outside were buzzed in through the main doors by office staff, but once inside, they had open access to the entire building. The school trusted that they would step into the office and register as a guest.
Now, after guests are buzzed in, they enter a new lobby and state the purpose of their visit over a telephone. Then the office is unlocked and they come in and register. Finally, staff unlock a third door and grant them access to the building.
The newly constructed doorways are only unlocked before or after school and during community events after hours. Staff members have key fobs to pass through them.
Near the end of the first day of school Friday, Sept. 1, Parkview Principal Jody Peterson said she felt safer and likes having better knowledge of who all is inside the building.
“At least day one, it went very smooth,” Peterson said, “and parents seemed OK with everything with the new changes in the security.”
RJM Construction of Black Creek completed the project at a cost of $93,960, as approved by the school board on April 10.
“We want to create a secured process but not one that inhibits flow or one that spends dollars over and above what is the purpose of the goal,” Marquardt told the board at that meeting.
Lincoln’s work came in just under $30,000, Marquardt said last week. Parkview cost a little over $60,000 because sinks needed to be moved and flooring had to be replaced across a larger surface area.
Marquardt said he believes district residents supported the 2014 referendum because they stood behind the cause and trusted the district would spend their dollars “very modestly.”
The 2017-’18 school year is the last for the four-year referendum. Marquardt said the school board will look at whether to pursue another referendum.
He said New London schools’ needs moving forward include security upgrades for Sugar Bush and Readfield elementary schools; roofing replacement at Lincoln; upgrades to Readfield’s masonry, building envelope and windows; new boilers and chillers at several schools; and energy efficiency upgrades everywhere.
The school district does not want to rely on referendums to complete its projects, Marquardt said, but there are many maintenance needs at its facilities. A boost from referendum dollars goes a long way.
The district completed two other major projects this summer. They included a $500,000 roof replacement at Readfield and a $278,000 resurfacing of the New London Intermediate/Middle School parking lot.
The projects were covered by the district’s operating budget, with referendum dollars supporting some of the roof work.