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Saratoga County

Workshop on school safety readies recommendations

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Albany/HV: Workshop on school safety readies recommendations
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In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings, our children's safety in schools is at the forefront of many people's minds. A meeting was held Thursday in Orange County, where local leaders and school officials discussed just that. Elaina Athans has more.

ORANGE COUNTY, N.Y. -- "It's not really doable on a regional basis because it represents millions of dollars that simply don't exist," said Orange County Undersheriff Ken Jones.

No funding and a need to enhance school security after the Newtown, Connecticut shooting. More than 15 districts and scores of Orange County officials met to find ways to keep kids safe in classrooms without spending a lot of money. Ideas tossed out that some districts and departments could be implementing. One to bring in trained, retired police officers and hire them as school resources officers. Another, make security upgrades to schools exteriors.

"Hardening facilities so that it's more difficult to gain access. That's a one shot cost," said Orange County District Attorney Frank Phillips.

The Department of Mental Health also looking to develop a mental health first aid course.

"So that our school personnel, our gate keepers, those who spend time with our children and youth can recognized when someone is symptomatic," said Orange County Department of Mental Health Commissioner Darcie Miller.

Just last week, before this countywide discussion, Orange-Ulster BOCES reinstated two police officers to patrol the campus. The school is paying for the entire cost of the armed uniform presence. Salaries and benefits could cost up to $100,000 for each officer.

"They do provide services that are not available through any other means," said Orange Ulster BOCES Chief Operating Officer Terrence Olivo.

But what BOCES did, not many other districts can do. And there are concerns security mandates from the state are coming down the line.

"We are already losing our shirts. We're cutting staff. We're cutting programs for kids," said Middletown City School District Superintendent Ken Eastwood.

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