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Salisbury Elementary to receive security updates

Salisbury Elementary School’s front entrance is getting a face-lift this summer as part of $125,000 worth of security updates to Merrimack Valley School District’s elementary schools.

The other four elementary schools each have two sets of doors at the front, the second of which visitors must be buzzed through before entering the building. Salisbury elementary only has one set of doors. In addition, the front office in the other schools is located right inside the door. In Salisbury it is about 50 feet back from the door, with the cafeteria and classrooms immediately accessible upon entering the building.

“The goal is to make it the same as the other schools,” Superintendent Mike Martin said.

The construction of a second set of doors is slated to be completed before school starts this fall, and the construction team will work around the school schedule to move the main office to the building, said Tom Godfrey, school board chairman.

In light of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, the school board created an advisory committee in February to review school security and recommend updates. That committee includes Martin, several school board members, Merrimack Valley High School Principal Mike Jette and Craig Saltmarsh, chairman of Boscawen’s board of selectmen and a chief deputy in the Merrimack County Sheriff’s office. The board had its first meeting in May and toured each of the elementary schools last month. When the advisory committee toured the schools, Salisbury’s lack of front security “jumped off the table,” Godfrey said.

Reconstructing Salisbury’s entryway was the most urgent recommendation, but the committee made suggestions for the other elementary schools as well. The full board voted to spend $65,000 from this year’s budget under building improvement funding and to take $60,000 from the capital project fund established by voters in 2005.

Salisbury Elementary’s former principal first brought the issue of security to the board about four years ago, Godfrey said. The town’s lack of a police department adds to the urgency to improve security. The town’s police force resigned in late 2010 and was not replaced, leaving the community to rely on the New Hampshire State Police. The school district has not updated the school’s emergency response plan since the police quit, and that is another priority this year, Martin said.

“We have a law enforcement member (on the committee), and he’s advised us that the response time would be longer than in other communities that have a police force,” said Martin, referring to Saltmarsh.

The advisory committee will meet monthly for the rest of the year to consider and solicit community feedback on several other proposals. Another goal is to increase the air lock space between the first and second set of doors in Boscawen, Loudon and possibly Penacook. In Boscawen, for example, there isn’t much space for a parent who just wants to wait to pick up their child without entering the building, Godfrey said. Other ideas that have not been fully explored include requiring all visitors to present identification and installing alarm systems that would contact law enforcement with the push of a button.

The committee meets again next Wednesday.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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