The future of security in Newtown schools is beginning to take shape.
At Thursday night's meeting, the Newtown Board of Education voted to approve a request to the Police Department for armed SROs (school resource officers) for each of the town's elementary schools.
Combined with the eight unarmed security personnel slated into the still-unapproved 2013/2014 budget, that would put two eyes and ears -- one armed, one unarmed -- at each Newtown school as a way to ensure the tragic Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School never happens again.
Some parents didn't think the measure went far enough.
"Policemen travel with a partner, and there's a reason for that," said Donna Lorenz. She said she felt comfortable letting her daughter go to a school guarded by two armed officers -- but wouldn't feel comfortable with anything less.
Lorenz was one of several Head O' Meadow parents to address the board during the public participation portion of the meeting. Fresh from a highly-attended PTA meeting, many parents suggested a safety-in-numbers approach.
"The only thing that stopped that guy that day was when the two Newtown police burst in the building," said Lorenz. "You all know that."
According to Head O' Meadow PTA President Laura Tierney, parents at the meeting voted unanimously to advocate for an increased budget that would allow for at least two SROs at their school.
"There was just a lot of support -- parents wanting to support and get involved in the budget process. They're definitely behind what you did," she told the board. "Thank you."
Although school security personnel would not be armed, board member Richard Gaines assured parents they would be qualified and competent.
"At the very least, they're security guards that have been previously trained," he said. "They are able to handle themselves. But they will not be armed."
Some parents went even further. One, Neil Johnson, said he'd like to see a security system that covered all bases.
"On a typical afternoon, when my wife and I pick up the boys, we are unchallenged," he said. "I can go into [Head O' Meadow] unengaged. I could hide. I could stay there overnight. There is no vetting process."
Johnson said he was concerned about how far the proposed security measures could go.
"They can't challenge somebody with a weapon," he said. "They might be able to break up a fight with fifth-graders. But they are going to be another casualty if it comes down to it."
For most parents who spoke, another common thread was clear: they weren't as worried about the proposed 6.5% budget increase as they were for safety and necessity.
"Please consider putting forward whatever you need," said parent Michelle Hankin. "Parents will support you ... Beyond Sandy Hook, there's a lot of extra needs. Help the community to understand why we need increases, and I think people will support you."
SROs are already a permanent presence at Reed Intermediate School, Newtown Middle School and Newtown High School. But until tonight, there has been no guarantee that they would remain a presence at Newtown's elementary schools, as they have since the shooting.
Gaines said professionals he'd spoken with since Dec. 14 had recommended against two armed officers at schools.
The measure is not complete. Since the police would be provided by the town, not the school, the request must still go through the proper channels -- including the Board of Selectmen.
Budget adoption discussions will continue at the Board of Education's next meeting on February 5.