Parents eye school security

SHERBURN – The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month was a scary wakeup call for many, including parents and grandparents at Martin County West.

Now, some of these community members hope to help their school make its facilities more secure.

“I thought about it a long time ago,” admits Ike Krogman, who has a granddaughter in third grade at Martin County West. “I’ve seen other schools get security cameras. I go to the school, watch the kids and see things … But after what happened in Connecticut, it just pushed it over the hill. I talked to the principal, [Dale] Harvitz, when I picked up my granddaughter from school. We talked about the design of the school. Then I talked to Principal [David] Traetow at the high school, and how they are working on getting security cameras at the high school … I asked about the elementary schools and he said, ‘That’s not in the budget.'”

The designs of the buildings and thinking of worst-case scenarios also prompted Stephanie Truesdell, a mother of four with two in school at Martin County West, to speak out to the community.

“I just put it out there on Facebook,” she said. “After Sandy Hook, I just said we had to do it, and that’s how it got started.”

While Krogman and Truesdell still haven’t met in person, they are heading a drive to raise funds to get security cameras and intercoms installed in every Martin County West building. The initial meeting for those interested will be 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Martin County West High School cafeteria.

“I don’t know anything about fund-raising, and I don’t even know much about security cameras,” Krogman admits. “But I think this is something all of our kids and grandkids need. Truesdell was really the one who gave me a push. She said, ‘Ask for help, and they’ll show up.'”

“We’ve made contact with the community, the fire department, and the Lions Club,” Truesdell said. “I’ve been in touch with the superintendent, and she’s been e-mailing me numbers and cost estimates. It’s estimated that it will cost about $45,000 for the high school, and an additional $6,000 to put a video/intercom in an elementary school.

“A video/intercom is important because right now, there’s a brick wall, and the office people can’t see who is coming in,” Truesdell said.

“What we’re hoping is fund raise so that it will be paid for with private funds and won’t affect the school’s budget,” Krogman said. “I’ve already had some negative feedback, saying that it’s no protection. But you could have a moat with guards, and still some nut could find a way in. I think of this more as a watchful eye, and it will benefit in other ways. And someday, it will probably be mandatory.”

The focus of Wednesday’s meeting will be to learn about security issues that the installation of cameras and a video intercom would address; the cost of the security equipment; and to organize and create different committees for fund-raising.

“I hope to see other communities copy this; I’d like to see it become a national thing for all schools, not just ours,” Krogman said. “Because all children should be protected. That should be the ultimate goal.”