Falmouth tightens access at 2 schools

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FALMOUTH — Entrances are more secure this year at both the middle and high schools.

The goal of a summer construction project was to make sure school personnel “know better who’s going in and out during the day,” Dan O’Shea, the School Department director of finance and operations, said.

Along with providing more security at each building, the new entrances will also improve the flow of traffic and make it easier for visitors to know exactly where to go.

O’Shea said there are new security cameras, and airlocks, which should help both schools be more energy efficient, too.

“Visitors will (now) be buzzed in directly to the main office (and) both buildings are significantly more secure and safe as a result of this redesign,” Superintendent of Schools Geoff Bruno said.

“Prior to the redesign at both the middle and high schools this summer, the front entrances to each building opened directly to a front hallway or foyer area with direct access to the entire school,” he said.

That not only caused confusion for visitors who were unsure where to go once they entered, but it also meant anyone who got into the school could more easily wander at will.

“At the high school in particular, it was not immediately apparent, once buzzed in the front door, where the main office was located,” Bruno said, but “the redesigned front entrance provides a new door that leads directly into the renovated main office.”

The cost came in at just under $300,000, which will be split between the School Department and town budgets, according to O’Shea.

He said the need to provide more secure entrances has been under discussion between the School Board and the Town Council for the past several years.

O’Shea said the council was receptive to paying part of the cost for the upgrades because councilors believed it “was bigger than just a school improvement, but one that benefited the community, too.”

The problem in getting the new entrances constructed, O’Shea said, is that the School Department “doesn’t have a very large capital project fund balance,” so it was difficult to come up with the money for the renovations.

He said the cost of the new entrance at the high school was $275,000 and the middle school project was initially expected to cost about $100,000 more.

But, O’Shea said, school maintenance employees were able to do most of the work for the new middle school entrance, which reduced the overall cost of the project.

O’Shea said the new entrance at the middle school will likely end up costing between $10,000 and $13,000, partly due to the materials needed, as well as the need to break through an interior concrete wall.

The final touches to the new entrance at the high school were still being completed Tuesday, the first day of school, but O’Shea said he hoped the job would be finished by the end of the day.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

Final touches to the new entrance at Falmouth High School were still being completed Tuesday, the first day of school. New entryways at both the middle and high school are designed to provide better security.