Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 37
 
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
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New Measures Increase Security at Princeton Schools

Linda Arntzenius

Parents of school-age children know the routine well. A visit to their child's school during school hours means a trip to the front office, a stick-on visitor tag, and recording the purpose and time of their visit on the sign-in sheet.

Events such as Columbine and the Virginia Tech shootings have brought the issue of security to the forefront for parents and school administrators alike. Recognizing the vulnerability of open student campuses, school districts across the country have weighed the need for increased safety.

Princeton is no exception.

The Princeton Regional School district is in the process of increasing its security system with added surveillance cameras and the introduction of an electronic entry card system in all its schools.

The increased measures have begun with the doubling of the number of cameras at Princeton High School, where swipe cards have been issued to teaching and all full-time and part-time support staff, including substitute teachers, as well as to contractors.

According to Superintendent Judith A. Wilson, the increased screening is not in response to any specific incident; it is part of the recent $81 million expansion and renovation plan authorized by Princeton voters in 2001.

The swipe-card access system for all district employees adds a new level of security.

"Our campuses have historically been wide open," said Lewis Goldstein, Assistant Superintendent of Schools. "But given the times we live in, we have to recognize that measures are necessary to ensure the health and safety of our children."

The district's plans will result in doubling the number of security cameras in use in schools to more than 50 this year. According to Mr. Goldstein, the district has spent $100,000 for cameras and the new employee I.D. entry system.

"We don't want to be in the position at a later date of having to say we wish we had taken such steps earlier," said Mr. Goldstein, who reported that the new security measures will be phased into the district's six schools: four K-5 elementary, one grades 6-8 middle school, and one high school.

Following installation of the electronic access cards and cameras at the high school, safety measures will be increased first at Johnson Park, then at Community Park, John Witherspoon Middle School, Littlebrook, and Riverside schools, successively.

At the high school, installation is expected to be completed by October.

Similar measures are being introduced in schools across the state.

From now on, visitors to Princeton's schools, as well as tardy students, will have to be "buzzed in by someone in the main office who can see each visitor on a monitor linked to a security camera by the entry, or walk in through a staffed entrance," said Mr. Goldstein.

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade returned to Princeton Regional Schools on Thursday, September 6. This year's student body has increased by 130 students to a total of 3,460. Class sizes range from 17 to 22 students per class.

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