Eight additional full-time security guards for schools are part of the budget plan the Newtown school district hopes to put forward for the 2013-2014 season. But they aren't the only improvement school officials are hoping to make.
Superintendent Janet Robinson put forth a plan Tuesday evening for districtwide increases in fields she says are critical to bringing the district up to par. It adds up to a 6.54% budget increase. But it's a figure that comes in an unprecedented time of uncertainty, including uncertainty about where Sandy Hook students will be attending school, what will become of the school building itself and what funds will be available.
Robinson said she doesn't know what will happen to funds that have been donated from across the world since the December 14 school shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six adults.
"I don't have any idea," she said. "I don't know how much of it could be spent for security or mental health professionals, or other kinds of things that could benefit the students."
"Our role is to educate," said Robinson at the beginning of her presentation. "That means educating ourselves, too."
The presentation incorporated existing Board of Education budget goals, like the desire for a full-day kindergarten, which has been on the table for the past three budget cycles. Other budget goals include professional development, Common Core State Standards and a technology budget Robinson said has gone off-cycle.
Robinson's projection included up to a 12% increase in health insurance, increases in energy costs -- especially oil -- and increases in general wages for staff. Building and site maintenance projections, which had been on the decline in previous years, increased sharply in Robinson's budget to $1,074,000.
Overall, Robinson's proposed 6.54% increase is significant higher than previous years -- like the 1.16% increase in the 2011/2012 budget or the 0.57% increase in 2012/2013. But Robinson says it's necessary, calling the increase "survival numbers" -- unlike previous years.
"We put in the bare minimum," she told Patch. "There are many areas I would put more in. I would put more guidance counselors in. So yes, we scaled back, but it still came over 6%. It's just that we've gone so many years with deprivation."
A Hope for Expanded Security Measures
The eight security guards are one part of an increase in post-12/14 security that includes real-time video surveillance, which would allow police to monitor schools from police headquarters of from cars. The board voted Tuesday to change school policy to allow the surveillance system. Current policy only allowed surveillance in the case of a justifiable reason.
"When you're looking at the entrance, the justifiable reason becomes apparent only after the event," said Board of Education member Richard Gaines.
During public comments, three community members spoke -- occasionally emotionally -- about the desire to have armed guards.
"We have police officers at malls, at movie theaters and other places," said Newtown resident John Bellow. "But for our most precious things, our young children, we have no security. I know there's talk about guns ... but the only way to stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun ... This can never happen again."
The Board of Education can only request that the police department provide armed officers for schools, and the request must go before the Board of Selectmen, Robinson told Patch. School officers are paid out of the police department's budget.
Patch will bring you more updates and coverage from this and other Newtown Board of Education news in the coming days.