When it comes to keeping children safe in schools, money is no object to Oxford First Selectman George Temple.
Temple was asked by Oxford Patch how much the town was willing to spend on safety upgrades in the town’s four school buildings, and he responded with an emphatic: “Whatever it takes.”
“We are in the process of assessing safety in all of our buildings, and whatever safety upgrades are necessary, that is what we will do,” he said. “The Board of Finance seems to be on board with this, too.”
Like most school districts across the nation and probably the world, Oxford has been taking a close look at how it can make schools safer in the wake of the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that claimed the lives of 20 students and six educators. While everyone took the news hard, there was an added concern in Oxford because it happened in a bordering community, officials say.
Temple and others say they don’t want to give too much information about their exact safety upgrades or security procedures because they don’t want potential perpetrators to know them. However, officials spoke in general terms, saying they have an added police presence in schools with officers and troopers stopping into buildings on a regular basis.
Oxford Resident Trooper Sgt. Dan Semosky said local officers are ahead of the game because they have already been reviewing school layouts plans and safety measures for years.
“Everybody is on board with this, and while we have had safety measures in place, we are looking to see if they can be even stronger,” he said.
Superintendent of Schools Tim Connellan said educators are discussing emergency management and response plans with local town and emergency personnel.
He said those plans need to be made for each individual school because every building is constructed differently. And, like many other educators, Connellan said teachers don't want to be carrying guns: they want to teach children.
Arming educators is not something the town is prepared to support, either.
Still, Temple said building safety upgrades will be made sooner rather than later. He said there is no issue in town that is more important than this and he doesn’t plan to waste time debating this issue.
“We’re not prepared to make schools an armed camp, but we are going to make schools even safer,” he said. “We take this with the upmost seriousness.”
Oxford and all school districts around the country could get a boost from the federal government for school safety plans. President Obama announced Wednesday that he's seeking several gun and safety control measures, including giving money to school districts to pay for school resource officers.