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Norwalk schools’ safety plan developing behind closed doors

Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia is among the city officials working to improve safety at Norwalk Public Schools.

By Nancy Guenther Chapman

NORWALK, Conn. – A secretive plan to protect Norwalk’s school children is being developed in the wake of last week’s tragedy in nearby Newtown, with thoughts for implementation beginning after the first of the year.

“As soon as the plan becomes public it’s no longer a safety plan,” Norwalk Interim Superintendent Tony Daddona said Tuesday night, before the Board of Education went into executive session to discuss details. “We have to be very careful about that.”

An emergency meeting Tuesday resulted in $100,000 being added to the capital budget for security purposes. BOE Chairman Mike Lyons said it was an arbitrary figure, a start, to fill immediate needs.

Lt. Marc Lepore, who fortuitously is completing vulnerability assessment training, will survey all 19 public schools and BOE offices and make recommendations.

“When that analysis comes back, if it turns out $100,000 isn’t going to do it – we need $300,000 or something like that – we can always make a request for special appropriation,” Lyons said.

Norwalk private and parochial schools (including preschools) will also be invited to participate in the review and updating of security plans.

“We’ll be looking at lock down drills,” Daddona said. “We need to be accountable and look at where every student is, along with our total plan. We well be part of our city’s OEM (Office of Emergency Management) team.”

In the meantime, Norwalk Police are at the schools during arrival and dismissal, Daddona said. Their locations on school property may vary.

Mayor Richard Moccia has been visiting the schools, seeking to reassure students, he said. He has been to about half so far to “make the kids feel a little better. Know that we’re there for them.”

In the process he has met teachers who have kids at Sandy Hook Elementary. “They were shaken up but they came in and did their jobs,” he said.

Norwalk Police have been stretched a little thin, he said. Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) requested support for their preschool programs and some officers have been dispatched to Newtown as mutual aid.

He said, “Newtown police were so overwhelmed.”

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