Wallingford Public School classrooms will become a bit safer with security improvements the Town Council approved Wednesday night, according to school officials who appeared before the board to request the funds.
The two requests total more than $400,000 and will go towards upgrading the intercom system in all of the town's schools except for Sheehan High School, which already received the upgrade after suffering damage from Superstorm Sandy, according to Information Technology Director Randy Backus.
The new system will expand the intercom capabilities from only being able to contact the school's main office to being able to make outside calls, Backus said, which means in the case of an emergency, a teacher would be able to call 911 from the classroom.
In addition to the intercom upgrade, the security systems at the schools also would be upgraded, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Salvatore Menzo told the council.
"Both of these are results of the tragedy in Newtown," he said, referring to the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 students and six staff members were killed when Adam Lanza broke into the school after killing his mother at home.
Both the intercom and security upgrades are bid waivers, and that's because if the system were to go out to bid and go with a provider different from what it has now, it could end up costing more money in the long run should it have to purchase new infrastructure, Menzo said.
"It makes little sense to go out to bid when it could potentially cost more money," he said.
"This will be upgrading existing equipment," Backus said.
Town Council member Nick Economopoulos said he normally wouldn't support a bid waiver but understood the reasoning behind this.
"It's a lot of money to not go out to bid and it's against my vow not to support bid waivers," he said, but this time he did.
The Board of Education has already approved spending the $226,676.56 on the intercom upgrade and is scheduled to vote on the f $175,575.62 security upgrade, Menzo said. The money will come from the board's contingency account, he said.
It's part of the board's stragegy to upgrade security in the wake of the Newtown shootings, he said. The stragety is a three-tiered approach, he said, with some done immediately after the shootings, some in the short term and other long term plans in the works.