UD-3 board eyes security upgrades

MIDDLEBURY — Some UD-3 officials are proposing to use around $300,000 of the school district’s roughly $500,000 in budget surplus from fiscal year 2015 to bankroll additional security system improvements at Middlebury Union middle and high schools, as well as pay for scores of new gym lockers at MUHS. These projects would be done next year.
The recommendation comes from members of the UD-3 Facilities Committee, charged with keeping track of the district’s capital improvement needs. UD-3 encompasses MUMS and MUHS, which serve students in the Addison Central Supervisory Union towns of Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Salisbury, Shoreham, Ripton and Weybridge.
If the UD-3 board endorses the facilities committee’s fiscal year 2017 priorities, it will place a referendum on the district’s annual meeting warning seeking voter approval of those expenditures. The annual meeting is customarily held in late February. If voters consent, the necessary funds will be taken from the district’s education reserve fund and dedicated to the projects.
Peter Conlon, chairman of the UD-3 board, noted the district does not have a capital improvements line item in its budget and has historically bankrolled such upgrades — with voter permission — using surplus funds.
Here are the three proposed projects for next year:
• Replacing all of the boys’ lockers and approximately 40 of the girls’ lockers in their respective changing rooms at MUHS. Bill Lawson, principal at MUHS, explained that the lockers date back to the 1960s. The girls’ lockers have seen less wear and tear, but 40 of them need to be replaced, he said. The lockers in question are used by students attending physical education class and for sports teams using the gym.
“They are really pretty old,” Lawson said of the lockers.
• Continued upgrades to the MUHS security system.
UD-3 directors, at their most recent meeting, specifically cited the need to purchase additional video cameras for the interior hallways in the school building.
• Reconfiguration of the front entrance area to MUMS in a manner that would require visitors to check in at the front office.
MUMS Principal Patrick Reen explained that currently, visitors are buzzed in through the front doors and are expected to sign in at the front office located to the right of the entrance. But there is nothing to prevent these visitors from bypassing the front office and heading directly into the building, Reen noted.
“If someone were there to do harm, they have free rein of the building,” Reen told UD-3 directors.
Plans call for new walls to be installed at the front entrance to fashion a lobby area that would require face-to-face contact with MUMS personnel — and sign-in — before the visitor could head into the building.
“It is a new layer of security for the entire building,” Reen said.
He added the project would be visually appealing, with brickwork mixed into the design.
The three selected projects were culled from a lengthy menu of possible improvements, including upgrades to the two bathrooms in the C wing of the high school. Those bathroom projects have been estimated at a combined total of $400,000 and will have to wait, officials said. In the end, Lawson said the lockers and security improvements crept to the top of the list on the basis of importance and cost.
“Obviously, you have to be concerned about school safety,” Lawson said, noting the disturbing prevalence of school shootings making headlines in other parts of the country. “It is always a balancing act — having a welcoming and open environment … versus trying to take reasonable steps to keep people safe.”
It should be noted that MUHS students recently weighed in on the prioritization of capital improvements at their school. Student leaders floated a survey, with respondents citing bathroom upgrades; repaving the student parking lot; and replacing, supplementing and covering student bike racks at the rear of the school as being at the top of their wish lists.

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