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Scarice, Koskinas Seek School Security Upgrades

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice and Police Chief Foti Koskinas have an excellent working relationship.

They share a key goal: keeping every Westport student and staff member safe, from before the start of the school day to the end of the final extracurricular activity.

But Staples High School is a sprawling, 500,000-square foot building. Cell service is spotty. In an emergency, 911 is not always an instant call away.

The enormous Staples High School campus. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

Thanks to a collaboration between Scarice and Koskinas. that may soon change.

This Wednesday (August 23, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), Scarice will ask the Board of Finance for $630,000. The funds are for an enhanced security communications system, adding to the current capability to contact emergency services.

In addition, Koskinas will request $432,063. That money would pay for 3 officers to patrol 3 campuses: Coleytown Middle/Coleytown Elementary School; Kings Highway/Saugatuck Elementary; and Long Lots/Greens Farms Elementary. One officer already patrols the Staples/Bedford Middle School campus.

The officers would help with traffic, unwelcome visitors and similar issues. They would enter the schools only for emergencies.

Scarice is excited by the potential for vastly enhanced security — including the “Campus Shield” system he is proposing for Staples.

It uses radio frequency, the same system utilized by the military and first responders. (In the recent Maui wildfires, that was the only means of communication when cell service went down.)

A 1-inch by 1 -inch fob attaches to a staff member’s identification lanyard. In the event of any 911 emergency — a violent intruder, say, or a health issue — the staffer would press the fob for 2 seconds.

Within 5 seconds — and with unfailing reliability — the emergency dispatch center is notified.

A screen shows the name and profile of the faculty member, and the exact location in the building the call comes from. The nearest security camera is activated, showing the dispatch center exactly what is happening.

Every staff member with a lanyard — administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, secretaries, coaches — would have the security fob.

Scarice says, “this tool enhances our current communications capability by providing instant, unfailing access to emergency responders. It is my highest recommendation, in conjunction with the Chief’s increase in officers dedicated to our schools.

“What excites me most is that this tool uses the exact same method that first responders and the military use for communications: radio frequency. This elevates our capabilities to communicate in an unfailing manner with first responders, in the event a call is necessary.”

The Board of Education has already unanimously supported Scarice’s request. The $630,000 cost might be partially offset by a state grant.

If the Board of Finance gives its okay, the security plan would go to the Representative Town Meeting for final approval.