Manhasset schools expect to see security upgrades this summer

Manhasset school district Director of Facilities Armand Markarian presents the Board of Education with plans for potential safety vestibules in the district's schools. (Photo by Amelia Camurati)

In the final Manhasset Board of Education meeting before the budget vote on May 15, the conversation focused on school security and potential facility upgrades for the district.

“These are two areas of operation that really are ongoing, and in the past couple months there has been a lot of focus on security,” Superintendent Vincent Butera said on Thursday. “In the district, security has been a focus for many years.”

Since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, the district has upgraded and implemented a number of security initiatives, including card-swipe entries for every building, cameras in every building viewable by administrators and Nassau County police officers, exterior lockdown strobe lights on every building and a lockdown system for every building.

After meeting with Nassau police and the Department of Homeland Security, Director of Facilities Armand Markarian said four upgrades are needed: a new digital radio system, security vestibules for every main entrance, enhanced strobe lights both inside and outside and adding a door ajar alert system at the elementary schools.

The security vestibules would be similar to the main entrance to the central administration office behind the secondary school with two sets of ballistic-rated glass doors.

Munsey Park Elementary School would be the easiest to transition, Markarian said, adding a second set of doors a few feet past the existing main entrance doors while installing a bank teller-style window between the doors for visitors to check in.

The Shelter Rock Elementary School main entrance takes visitors immediately past a kitchen entrance. (Photo courtesy of Manhasset school district)

At Shelter Rock Elementary School, Markarian said, the vestibule plan is a temporary one-year plan at the existing main entrance, but concerns were raised over the entrance near the receiving dock, which is often a bustling area, as well as near a rear entrance to the school’s kitchen.

“The cafeteria gives me nightmares,” Trustee Christine Monterroso said. “It’s not ideal.”

In the plan, a second set of doors would be placed past the top of the steps as well as past the door to the kitchen and the door to the receiving dock and kitchen’s storage room.

If this plan was approved, Markarian said staff would need to swipe into the kitchen door, which would reduce the risk of intruders in the kitchen.

Ideally, Markarian said after the 2018-19 school year, the school’s main entrance would be moved to the gymnasium entrance.

At the Secondary School, which includes both Manhasset Middle and High schools, a vestibule will be placed at the Middle School entrance, with the exterior door at the top of the first set of steps and the second door placed past the interior steps.

Johnson said the state Department of Education would have to approve the vestibules before installation and could take up to 10 weeks for approval. However, President Regina Rule said the board wants to begin the project as soon as possible and, if approval comes after the first day of school, the work could be done after hours.

Assistant Superintendent of Business Rosemary Johnson said the vestibules alone will cost approximately $120,000 with an additional $75,000 for technology upgrades and additional cameras for the entrances.

Bids would be required for the security vestibules, Johnson said, but she hopes to use a $100,000 grant given to the district last year by state Sen. Elaine Phillips as well as additional grant funds to come.

Department of Homeland Security and Nassau County police officers recommended the district add strobe lights inside the buildings as well as outside. (Photo courtesy of Manhasset school district)

Though the district currently has strobe lights across the exteriors of the buildings, officers recommended some be placed inside, especially in large gathering spots such as auditoriums, gymnasiums and cafeterias where announcements on the public address system may be missed.

The cost, Johnson said, would be about $33,000 from the district’s remaining Smart Schools Bond Act funds.

Officers also recommended implementing the door ajar alert system at the two elementary schools, which would alert the administration if a door on campus has been left open. Upgrades to the system and adding it at two new campuses would cost approximately $46,000.

Johnson said the door ajar system funds would possibly come from a combination of grant monies and funds in the proposed 2018-19 budget.

Markarian said the district’s current analog radios are not as capable as newer digital radios, which get about 10 to 15 percent better penetration than analog and include background noise suppression.

The digital handheld radios would also require a new digital repeater.

A digital upgrade will cost approximately $50,000, Johnson said, and the funds are available in the 2017-18 equipment budget.

About the author

Amelia Camurati

Amelia Camurati is a Southern transplant and a reporter covering Roslyn and Manhasset.
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