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May 15. 2013 11:39PM

Manchester school security getting review

MANCHESTER — Federal agents are set to conduct "security audits" of four city schools next month, as part of stepped-up efforts by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to boost school safety around the country.

Superintendent Thomas Brennan said he met with Homeland Security officials earlier this week about the plans.

"Because of what happened in Connecticut, there is a whole different focus on K-to-12," Brennan said.

The security audits will take place at Manchester High School Central, Beech Street Elementary and two other schools to be determined in the near future.

Brennan said Central would be a focus because it has multiple buildings, and Beech Street, he noted, has portable classrooms and "no walls."

In addition to the audits, more federal grant money would be available for security upgrades and programs.

"This will allow us to not only take advantage of some grants through Homeland Security, but also tap the resources of the FBI, Secret Service, state and local law enforcement and the fire department to really tighten our protocol for student safety," Brennan said.

As part of the audits, DHS agents will go through a checklist of more than 150 items.

According to DHS' "K-12 School Security Checklist," among the items to be inspected are whether:

• the facility limits access points;

• "positive entry control systems are established (e.g. telephone entry control, biometric access control)";

• "the number of containers and trash cans ... are minimized";

• "systems are installed that provide two-way communication between faculty, staff, administrators, and security personnel."

The latter item is part of a section of the checklist on school communication systems.

Part of a $2.8 million bond recently approved by aldermen will pay for new telephone and intercom systems, which was deemed a security priority by school and public safety officials.

tsiefer@unionleader.com


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