State Scrapped School Safety Funding Program

A police officer keeps vigil as students were dropped off at the Newtown Middle School as classes resumed in Newtown on December 18, 2012. (MCT)

He said many towns have older schools, particularly at the elementary level, and that "retro-fitting them is not easy" because of how they were designed.

Many schools were built at a time when security was not a prime concern.

"Back in the 1950s, when some of these schools were built, if an architect came before the (school) board and said we are going to plan this elementary school to stop someone with a high capacity rifle from entering, they would have thrown him out,'' Bloss said.

Three school systems – Avon, Region 18, which covers Lyme and Old Lyme, and Region 14 which covers Bethlehem and Woodbury – were awarded money from the state program in 2008 but did not use it, records show.

Region 18 Superintendent Ian Neviaser said it appears his district declined the $26,500 the state offered because the school board didn't want to spend an additional $72,000 to upgrade security at the high school because a major renovation was planned. Neviaser was not the superintendent in Region 18 in 2008. Avon also was in the middle of a $30 million renovation at its high school.

The board eventually approved a $39 million renovation which is wrapping up this year. Included in that was a "state of the art" security system, Neviaser said.

Region 14 did not use a small amount of funding in 2008, records show, but instead got $14,000 from the state in 2009 to do security work on several schools. One of them was the Woodbury's Mitchell Elementary School.

The Mitchell school principal who wrote the district's grant application in October of 2007 was Dawn Hochsprung.

"Currently individuals can enter the buildings without being seen by the staff,'' Hochsprung wrote, adding the school wanted to install a camera, intercom and buzzer system.

"This will allow us to keep the front door locked at all time and to allow only visitors into the building after they are identified by staff and allowed access," Hochsprung wrote.

The application was approved and the new system installed in her last year in Region 14.

Hochsprung later left to become principal at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, where she was killed while rushing out of a room to confront Lanza.