Each of the district's seven elementary schools will have a security guard in place at least through the end of the school year under a measure passed unanimously by the Patchogue-Medford Board of Education Monday night.
The move comes in light of last Friday's school shooting in Newtown, Conn. that left 26 dead, including 20 children. There are already security guards at Patchogue-Medford High School and the middle schools.
"In today's world, if you ask me or anyone, can we protect children and adults in schools 100 percent? The answer is no, but I believe schools are safe places," Superintendent Michael Locantore said during the board meeting at South Ocean Middle School.
"I believe that because of the awareness that is taking place, students are coming forward more and more with information and we commend them, but we also have to look at what we can do to make it better to ensure that we are doing everything that we can," he said of keeping the district's schools safe.
Locantore announced in a phone call to parents last Friday evening that security guards would be at the elementary schools through this week, but during an executive session prior to Monday's board meeting, school officials decided to extend that through the rest of the year.
Board President Thomas Donofrio said security at the elementary schools will also be a "continuing effort in the years to come."
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Administrators also detailed additional security measures in place at the schools.
New alarm systems were installed in all schools over the summer, according to Donna Jones, the assistant superintendent for business who also heads the district's security and safety efforts.
More than 500 new security cameras have been put in place across the district, she said.
The installation of new intercom/buzzer systems is complete at the high school and middle schools and will be in place at all of the elementary schools by the end of next week, Jones said.
"All building doors will totally be locked," she said, adding that the district will be introducing new protocol on how to operate those systems.
Monday's meeting was dominated by discussion of school security following Friday's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which board trustee Joseph LoSchiavo called "a simple act of evil."
"We need to thank and never forget the brave acts of heroism that took place that day, from the teachers and first responders who risked their lives to protect those children and to those who made the ultimate sacrifice," LoSchiavo said.
LoSchiavo, who chairs the board's security committee–which accepts applications from the public (the usual deadline to apply, Dec. 31. will be extended)–said there may be some solutions that are simple, while others may require laws to tighten up school security.
"We need to as a board, at the end of the day, be able to say that I did everything possible in our collective conscience to make sure that these schools are safe," LoSchiavo said.
Placing security guards at the elementary schools is just one step in keeping the district's students safe, Donofrio said.
"Even though tonight we will put on additional security at the elementary schools, I don't want anybody to feel that it is some sort of quick simple fix and we just do that and we are done with it," he said
"There will be a continued conversation," he added, noting that the board is also open to any ideas and suggestions from the public.
The board did not disclose how much it will cost to fund the security guard positions, but after the meeting LoSchiavo said the cause was certainly worth the money.
On school safety, he said, "There is nothing more important."
The Newtown shooting has tragic local ties as one of those killed, 6-year-old Jack Pinto, was the grandson of Alfred Volkmann, who served on the Patchogue-Medford Board of Education in the 1970s and 80s.