The Merrick Board of Education last week approved a measure to hire a security consulting firm to conduct a security audit at the district’s three elementary schools, but fell one vote short of passing a separate measure to hire a firm that would have provided private, unarmed guards at the schools.
The board unanimously agreed to contract with Altaris Consulting Group, LLC, a security consulting firm based in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., to conduct a security audit at Birch, Chatterton and Levy-Lakeside elementary schools — and provide recommendations for improvement. A possible contract with Summit Security Services, Inc., of Uniondale to post a security guard at each of the three schools received three votes from the six-member Board of Education, one short of the four needed for approval.
The votes, which occurred at the board’s regular monthly meeting on Feb. 5, came after a group of parents with children in the Merrick schools started a petition under the name “Merrick SOS (Secure our Schools!),” which calls for licensed, unarmed guards to be stationed outside the entrances of Merrick schools. Group members said the petition has received more than 500 signatures online at change.org and on paper.
During the Feb. 5 meeting, Merrick School Superintendent Dominick Palma proposed the contracts with Altaris and Summit, and gave an overview of the actions that the district has already taken to enhance school security since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn.
According to Palma, protocols are now in place for the schools to lock all exterior doors during the school day. Custodians will regularly check that no exterior doors have been propped open. The schools will also limit which doors may be used as entrances. Visitors must turn over photo IDs to hall monitors at school entrances for as long as they are in the buildings.