In reaction to the Newtown school shootings, the Belleville Board of Education have commissioned armed security officers to guard the front doors of Belleville public school.
At Monday night's school board meeting, school officials told resident that the armed security guards were placed at the schools on Feb. 4. In addition, a special security company is completing a comprehensive audit of all the schools and will recommend improvement to security measures, including video cameras, phone systems and door locks, school officials said.
This change came just weeks after the school board hired former Belleville police captain and mayor Bill Escott as school security director. Escott said he personally supervised the hiring of the security officers, who are retired sheriffs, state trooper and police officers. The officers are certified in CPR, have had fingerprint background checks and have all gun-carry certifications required by federal and state laws.
Visitors to the schools need to makde appointments prinicipal of the school and show a photo identification to the part-time security officers, officials said.
The costs of these changes are still being counted, school officials said.
"The faculty and administration have said they are pleased with the changes so far," school board member Joseph Longo said. "It is a comfort to know someone will be there who is trained in dealing with these terrible scenarios."
Escott also led a two-hour in-service presentation with Belleville Police Chief Joseph Rotonda and other police leaders to instruct teachers on how to deal with violence in schools. A teacher who requested anonymity said the seminar on violence was "the best I've ever seen on the subject."
Residents did not object to the changes in the public portion of the meeting. School officials now await the report from the security company.
"We will decide to where to go with electronic surveillance and all other aspects of our buildings' safety," Longo said.
In the meantime, Longo said a few residents told him they were denied access to schools because they had no appointment.
"But rather than being upset, they complimented the district for making schools more secure," he said. "They are happy that we a little more buttoned up."
School officials have said the details of changes to school security could be shared with the public because of the need to keep that information away from any potential criminals.
Interim Superintendent of Schools Helene Feldman and School Board President Peter Zangari, Jr. have said this move was absolutely essential. For anyone questioning spending money on security, Zangari stressed the need to improve security.
All the board members have said they supported the move, and thanked Escott for joining the district.