By Amy Patton
Firming up measures to tighten security at the Bridgehampton School was at the top of the agenda during the district board’s monthly business meeting last Wednesday.
“In light of the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook,” noted school board president Ronald White, referring to the mass shootings at the Connecticut elementary school that occurred late last year, “we’re updating our security system with electronic keycards.”
The new system carries an approximate price tag of $35,000, an amount set aside by the board in the 2013-2014 budget that has been specifically earmarked for security upgrades.
The cards will be issued to all middle and high school students as well as staff and teachers, by the time classes resume in September.
In the event of an emergency, said White, the computer that runs the system will cause all of the doors in the buildings to go into lockdown mode, preventing entry and exit by anyone.
The Bridgehampton School’s technology liaison Sean Sharp, along with architect Ben Chaleff, both from the district’s Facilities and Safety Committee, provided a demonstration at Wednesday’s meeting of the keycard system and how it will work. They also presented plans to update seven entry doors to the school with new handle mechanisms that will permit access only to those with the keycards.
“We plan to enhance the vestibule area of the school by replacing a door that was previously there and updating the camera and buzzer system,” said Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre.
She added, “We want to control [the] access of visitors through a single point of entry as recommended by New York State and area safety officials.”
The magnetic-striped cards can also keep track of data such as cardholders’ movements throughout the buildings. Eventually, said White, the plan is for the keycards to take the place of the students’ current ID cards so that parents can monitor their kids’ lunch funds, keep apprised of spending and load more money into their children’s accounts when they run low.
As their main benefit, however, the keycards will prevent unauthorized visitors from entering the school’s buildings.
The board said the keycards will cost roughly $4 per recipient.
“You just never know what can happen,” said White. “Sandy Hook was so much like Bridgehampton, just a really tranquil place. Very family-oriented. It just taught us that anything can happen. Not that the worst will happen, but we’re pretty much just erring on the side of caution by implementing this new system.”
Also as part of the school’s security upgrade will be the reinforcement and renovation of entry doors and the installation of a “panic bar” near entrances and exits that students and staff can use in the event of an emergency.
Sharp said he will provide the keycards, computer software and hardware and continuing maintenance of the system. Chaleff is on board to maintain the look and integrity of the school’s buildings while the doors are updated with the new security features.
“[The Board] liked what [Sharp} had to offer,” said White. “What they have is a wireless compatibility where you can upgrade the software as you go and also initiate a lockdown from a cell phone or other wireless device.”
White said other Long Island school districts such as Miller Place are currently using the keycard security system.
“We believe the cost for this is a necessary one,” noted Favre. “And one that is supported by many parents who have children in this district.”
Also on the agenda last week: new member Elizabeth Kotz was officially sworn in to the Board of Education at the Bridgehampton School Wednesday. Kotz replaces Nicki Hemby, who resigned her position as president in late June of this year.