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About Town: School safety

What makes for a safe school?

One thing we learned from Newtown is that following existing standards and requirements for elementary school safety did not work. Newtown had made the old elementary school as “safe” as possible, according to the tragically late principal.

Sandy Hook Elementary, built in the mid-50s, was a neighborhood school. It looks in aerial view like a place designed for Cold War “take cover” drills. What was missing was a plan for the kind of unfathomable scenario that occurred. No one ever fully plans for the unfathomable. We’d all live underground if we did.

Which is why, I suppose, that a lot of people seem to feel that it must be society itself that caused the problem.

It must be the American love affair with video games and guns that did it, many seem to feel. Well, most people in Weston are not members of the NRA, although there is no shame in being a member of that group, per se. I would expect that relatively few people in Weston play violent video games, but if they do, isn’t this still a free country? Shouldn’t what you do in the privacy of your home be your own business?

Maybe it is the fault of violent movies or television shows? Or, as it is sometimes put, “the coarsening” of public tastes. My personal theory is that a contributing factor is reporting of actual news events, things that are reality, that shock us.

Speak Up

With its Feb. 9 date fast approaching, the League of Women Voters of Weston’s Speak Up is almost here. On that Saturday, from 10:30 to noon, the Community Room at the Weston Public Library is the place to be.

I hope the subject of a governmental response to Sandy Hook comes up. We hope to have on stage the co-chairman of the state legislature’s School Safety subcommittee, sworn to re-examine the existing rules and standards for protection of children and teachers in public schools in Connecticut.

What recommendations for legislation will this subcommittee, and others that are addressing gun violence and mental health, come up with? Will it all make a difference for Weston?

Speaking of keeping our children safe, what more do the Police Commission and the police chief think we can do on “The Mile of Safety” (School Road)? Will we ever have dedicated bike lanes around and about the school-town complex?

Not that long ago, talking about public safety on School Road meant reducing speeding and forcing drivers and pedestrians to be cautious. Our basic approach of having all of our schools in one place has perhaps at times seemed at odds with these concerns.

But thanks to the school construction project that linked together East, South and North Houses, perhaps we can now implement a means of sealing off the separate components at Hurlbutt Elementary School, trapping intruders in the new connecting corridors. Come to Speak Up and ask the Building Committee if this is a viable security option.

Some other important topics are likely to come up, too. Money is always of concern, including having enough to support town maintenance projects.

Did you know that our fund balance went up by a million dollars recently? How did this happen? Could we borrow from this wad to finance needed municipal projects? Ask the Board of Finance!

NOTE: “About Town” is also a TV program. It appears on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 to 6 p.m. on Cablevision Channel 88 (Public Access) or at AboutWeston.com

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Check out Margaret Wirtenberg's website: http://www.aboutweston.com/

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