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‘Next step’ for North Bellmore school security

$250,000 project approved by legislature

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The North Bellmore School District is set for what Superintendent Marie Testa described as the “next step” in its security precautions. A community revitalization project was approved by the Nassau County Legislature on Aug. 5, granting $250,000 in capital funds to the district. The improvements will add on to the existing security systems at John G. Dinkelmeyer, Martin Avenue, Newbridge Road, Park Avenue and Saw Mill Road elementary schools.

“It’s better to be proactive than reactive,” said Testa, who is in her seventh year as the district’s superintendent. “It will be an extra layer of enhancements — a deterrence against intruders.”

New security vestibules will be installed at the main entrances of the five buildings — a “secure area to wait” and “a place where we can screen visitors before they enter the building,” Testa explained.

Currently, visitors simply present identification to a security guard at the front desk. The guard signs them onto a guest list, and then they have access to the rest of the school.

“They can walk right past the desk, and if they’re fast or have a weapon, no one would be able to stop them,” said Legislator Tom McKevitt, a Republican from East Meadow who advocated for the project’s passage through the Legislature. In the new system, McKevitt added, “only after you’re cleared with an ID, you can go in” through the vestibule.

Other school buildings in the area, including those in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District, have similar systems already in place. Visitors, in full view of the guard while standing in the vestibule, slide over or scan their IDs through an interface, which registers them on a visitors list. The entrance to the building remains locked until the screening is complete.

“It’s unfortunate that in this day and age we have to take these steps,” McKevitt said, “but when a parent sends their child to school, they need to know it’s the safest place they can be.”

The buildings already have several security measures in place, according to Deputy Superintendent Carol Eskew, including lockdown, lockout and stay-in-place drills, automatically locking doors, surveillance equipment and emergency strobe lights — all of which follow state guidelines. The vestibules, however, will “give parents and children a complete sense of security,” Eskew said.

When seeking funding for the vestibules — an idea sparked by community feedback at a recent public safety and security meeting held by the district — Testa led the charge, Eskew and McKevitt said. She reached out to McKevitt first, and submitted county contractual requirements for the project in “record time,” he said. “I cannot reiterate how cooperative the district has been on this,” he added.

“I can’t say enough about the time and effort of our superintendent — she’s been a leader among superintendents on Long Island,” said Eskew, referring to Testa’s role on the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents.

The district plans to send out a request for proposals soon, Testa said. Until then, there is no set date for the vestibules’ construction, but the district will “move swiftly,” she pledged.