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December 21. 2012 7:01PM

$2.4 million school security upgrades sought in Nashua

NASHUA - One week after a mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school killed 20 students, an alderman has filed a proposed bond authorization seeking major security upgrades throughout the entire Nashua School District.

On Friday, Alderman-at-Large David Deane submitted the proposal to authorize a bond of up to $2.4 million to improve the district's Access Control System - a proposal that was initially introduced in 2009 but vetoed by Mayor Donnalee Lozeau because of a school budget deficit topping $3 million. The proposed bond is intended to cover the costs of numerous recommendations included in the 2009 Comprehensive Security Assessment Report for the Nashua School District, a report conducted by W.L. Bliss Associates Inc. of Dedham, Mass.

The upgrades - if approved by aldermen and ultimately supported by school officials - would enable the installation of alarms and monitors on exterior school doors, locks for all doors, more than 100 cameras with a centralized monitoring system and a buzz-in intercom camera system at all school main entrances. In addition, existing alarm systems would be replaced with 56 panic switches and 123 proximity card readers.

The proposal is co-sponsored by Alderman-at-Large James Donchess.

"We have learned close at hand now what can happen," Donchess said, acknowledging that the urgency of the authorization is obviously connected to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

"These school security upgrades were delayed in 2009 because of financial problems, but now is the time to get beyond that and implement these security measures," he said. "We should do this right away. I think we have waited long enough."

School officials are supporting at least some of upgrades, voting this week to expedite two parts of the Access Control System - the buzz-in entrance systems and locks on classroom doors. Donchess said he trusts that school administrators and the Board of Education will have detailed recommendations for improving safety within city schools, but he wants to ensure the money is available for those important projects.

"I am still looking to them for specific recommendations, I just want to provide them with the funding," Donchess said, adding he is hopeful the legislation will be approved quickly so that the money will be readily available.

"In the wake of the horrific events (in Connecticut), we want to reassure you that here in Nashua we are working together to keep our students and school staffs as safe as possible at all times," said a joint statement released this week by Lozeau, Superintendent Mark Conrad and Police Chief John Seusing. "In an effort to balance a nurturing learning environment with one that is safe and secure, we continuously review, practice and improve safety practices and procedures on a regular basis.

"Ultimately, we know the most important measure to keeping our schools safe is to maintain a positive school climate and to encourage open, positive lines of communication among students and staff," said the statement.

At a candlelight vigil on Monday in Nashua, Lozeau reminded those in attendance that the massacre in Newtown, Conn., occurred inside of an elementary school building that was already locked and secured.

Aldermen will be introduced with the proposed bond authorization on Wednesday, and it will then be referred to an aldermanic committee for further review and a recommendation. A public hearing will also be held on the proposed bond, which requires approval from a super-majority of the board or at least 10 aldermen. Deane is suggesting a 10-year, $2,408,900 bond with yearly payments of about $278,000, according to the proposal.

khoughton@newstote.com

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