An extra check of a secured doorway has become the norm for Fairfield schools. Since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Fairfield, like many other towns, has taken a closer look at school security and made changes to enhance it.
“One of the things we did, one of the initiatives is numbering every single doorway in every school,” said Fairfield Police Lt. James Perez. The security enhancement will help first responders to know what part of the school building in which there may be an emergency or an incident.
Lt. James Perez went through every single school and put together a safety plan with three major steps. The first was looking at every school building and making sure it was secure.
People walking into the building will have to navigate a detachable rope system, similar to those used at airport security, or a ticket counter.
“We designed this so that visitors have to go through the soft barrier. They have to go to the main office to report, so no one is just allowed to walk in,” said Lt. Perez.
The second step was training for all staff members, so that they know what to do and how to respond to an act of violence and also what indicators there may be that could help prevent it.
“I try to give training based on the ability for the staff member to react, rather than just freeze there if something bad were to happen,” said Lt. Perez.
Another part of the school safety program is sharing information between the police department and the school system.
“It’s really sharing the same information that we both know from each other, but we never knew because we always had our backs to each other. So now we’re reversing that, so their problems become our problems and our problems become their problems,” said Lt. Perez.
Police officers have also been integrated into the schools. It’s the first year where officers are permanently in place at the high schools and the middle schools. They walk the halls, talk to students and keep a constant eye on the building.
“Every morning I’m here I get hellos. I get asked on certain things going on in the school to speak to the students, whether it’s bullying or behavioral, not necessarily a law enforcement role, but maybe that person from inside the school to give my perspective,” said Fairfield Police Officer George Buckmir, who is stationed at Tomlinson Middle School.
Officer Buckmir has also been building relationships with students and fostering the new relationship between the police department and the school system, which is one that is so important after recent events.
“Our lives have changed. There’s a new appreciation for security and safety in our buildings, and because of that, the wonderful result was a growing relationship with the police department and very much so now, we are partners,” said Sally Bonina, Principal of Tomlinson Middle School.