HUDSON: More than a hundred concerned parents and Hudson residents attended the Keep Hudson Safe Initiative open forum on Thursday at the high school media center.
Moderated by Mayor William Currin, those in attendance heard from school administrators, local law enforcement and psychological experts on how to make schools and the community safer in the wake of the Newton, Conn. and other school shootings.
It was clear from the nature of the questions posed by the audience, and the replies received, that school safety is of major concern to the community and answers are not simple.
Superintendent Steven Farnsworth said that Hudson's school buildings were built "pre-Columbine, security was not uppermost on the architects' minds."
Several parents expressed concerns as to entrance access in their child's school building.
Farnsworth said that changes into entry access at many of the district's buildings are in the works. Ellsworth Hill Elementary, he said, has a two-stage entry for visitors. They must be buzzed into the office, and then buzzed in through another set of doors to have access to the remainder of the school. The district is looking to modify other buildings to provide a similar, two-step entry process.
There were questions about the possibility of armed law enforcement officers in each building and Police Chief Dave Robbins addressed the audience. He said that Hudson law enforcement is working to find a "sustainable" way to provide police presence in the schools. While desiring to provide what is necessary, it is also important to consider what is financially possible for the city to maintain.
Farnsworth also addressed the issue, stating that the people of Hudson would have to decide, "what kind of a school do you want?" He said that currently the school buildings are facilities for recreation for Hudson residents after hours, and often stay open until 11 p.m.
The impact of a having law enforcement controlling the entrance point, and screening all entrants would have to be considered. One possibility he said would be to shift the burden of recreation back to the city.
It is not just district buildings that raised questions. One concerned grandparent said that her grandchild attends a pre-school at a Hudson church, and security seemed minimal.
This presents a problem, Farnsworth said, as the district has no responsibility for such schools. The police representatives present said that they have been contacted by several churches asking for advice on security and have provided such assistance.
Currin said that this is "not a one-time event," and that the initiative will continue working to enhance safety in the schools and the community.