In her latest blog entry at onenewtown.org, the town's clearinghouse website for healing and recovery information, First Selectman Pat Llodra recently outlined how security for the public schools located in Newtown will be provided this fall.
The details do not include Sandy Hook School, which she noted, has "separate and distinct plans" for security. The first selectman said plans for armed security at the town's schools are still on track.
"It is important to state right at the outset that the intention and commitment made by the Town, the Police department and School District to provide armed security for our public schools remains intact," Mrs Llodra posted.
She said she has met with Superintendent Dr John Reed and Police Chief Michael Kehoe several times this summer "to discuss what form that plan would take come the opening of school in September."
"Those discussions have led us to understand that we have three possibilities moving forward: short-term; mid-term; and long term," Ms Llodra stated. "In the short –term, Newtown police will be assigned to the elementary schools (and as a back-up to the juvenile officer at Reed) from overtime. We will use funds from that budget account to compensate officers for the additional duty."
Mrs Llodra wrote that there will be no gaps in service. This overtime approach will remain in place until we are able to implement the mid-term plan.
"The mid-term plan calls for the assignment of SROs (School Resource Officers) or new hires as school officers for the three Newtown-based elementary schools and the assignment of a back-up for the juvenile officer at Reed to ensure that no armed security gap exists at that school," the first selectman explained.
"The grant for SROs, if funded, will provide for two officers," she said, referring to a package of federal grants under consideration for the town.
"The third position would come through an additional new hire funded by the municipal budget," Mrs Llodra said. "We do not know yet the status of our application to fund school resource officers through the grant. We are hoping to know that answer by September.
"Further, we need to fully understand the future obligations taken on by the town through this grant, if funded," she added.
It is unclear whether grant contingencies will require the Town to maintain the two SRO positions through our local budget for at least one year after the end of the two-year grant fund.
If the police department will be increased by three officers, Mrs Llodra said it is critical the town ensures there will be future funding necessary to add these positions to the local budget.
Mrs Llodra said the long-term plan includes the possibility of a new "position," called school safety officer, to provide armed officers in our public schools. She said this role is being developed in two other Connecticut communities and the certification process is being developed through the State Police.
Recently, she said, retired police officers have become eligible for the school safety officer (SSO) positions. The roles, responsibilities, and scope of authority of an SSO are being developed and are expected to be released sometime soon.
"When the job description and certification process are complete the district safety committee and town and school representatives will conduct site visits to help evaluate how this alternative is working and ultimately make a recommendation one way or the other to the Board of Education about this option," Mrs Llodra said. "These positions would be school-year based and not full additions to the ranks of sworn personnel of our Newtown Police Department."
Mrs Llodra closed assuring the community that when school opens in a few weeks, each of the town's schools will be served by security guards in addition to an armed officer.