Overcoming the tension between the connected library and school may be an even tougher challenge.
An hourlong joint meeting between Selectmen, library trustees and representatives from Clarksburg School ended with Selectmen Chairman Ronald Boucher demanding the library supply the school with emergency access.
"I want a key at the school so it's accessible to the school not to wait for chief of the Fire Department, chief of the Police Department, or the state police to get there. I want a key in the school," said Boucher last Wednesday. "That's it. That's how I feel. I hope the board supports me on that. But I feel that way. It's very important to me."
Boucher was backed on his motion by Select Board members Jeffrey Levanos and Danielle Luchi.
"I know there's a level of distrust for the school and the library, but the school seems to be bending over backwards to accommodate the library," Levanos said.
The trustees provided a key that night — although it's usefulness is questionable because of the way the door between the school and library is situated.
The issue of the key came up several months ago during an emergency drill overseen by State Trooper Andrew Canata, a member of the Troop B School Safety Team. He pointed out that the school was physically connected to the small town library but had no way to access the building from the inside.
"Trooper Canata brought up the fact that we don't actually go into the library, we walk around it and make sure there's nobody in there and, unless the library official is out, just to make sure they're safe as far as procedures," explained Police Chief Michael Williams. "Because we have an attached door, anybody from the school could get into the library."
The strategy is to enter the school and work from the inside out, not come in from the outside a different points, he said.
School officials had brought the issue to Boucher, who had asked the trustees that a key to the shared door be provided to the school. Library trustees, however, have been reluctant to hand out keys to the building over concerns they could be duplicated and because of the loaned material the library is responsible for.
"We have library materials that are on loan, and we cannot let anyone else into the library unless there's one of us or an employee present," explained Trustee Chairwoman Debra Bua. Instead, the library had provided both Williams and Fire Chief Carlyle "Chip" Chesbro with keys and was planning to install a "Knox Box." The code-locked box would hold keys to the library and be mounted on the exterior wall.
"We also had a specialist come into the library about a month ago and go through our security or safety," she said. "And we're taking care of some of those issues."
Boucher responded that he liked the idea of a Knox Box -- and including a school key as well -- but didn't want to wait until it was installed.
"This world has changed. You have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. OK? A little town like Clarksburg is not exempt," he said. "We need to be prepared tomorrow. Not a week from now. Not a month from now. It has to be done now."
School Principal Tara Barnes said it was a matter of "neighborly trust" between the two town entities. What if there was a heating or water problem? she asked. The school provides the utilities to the library but can't access the building if there's an emergency.
"We could do whatever needs to be done to make sure that you feel the key is secure in the office if that helps," she said. "I think we can work together to have a memo of understanding in writing. And so if we ever walked into that library when it wasn't a security issue or or a facilities issue, you know, then we will be in breach. ...
"We'd be willing to do whatever that is that would make you feel comfortable, just so that we could have this in place and we can move forward."
Superintendent of Schools John Franzoni said one of his concerns was that the library had access to the school because it controlled the door separating the two buildings. The library director can buzz students and teachers through the door and actually has to open the door into the school to properly lock it for both sides.
"I've been uneasy about that whole door because really the control over who gets into what entryway is based on the library," he said. "Is it more likely somebody to walk in because the front door of the library is open during the day, right? ... and wants to force their way into the school, that's the easiest."
All they are trying to do is upgrade the safety protocols based on the state police recommendations, he said, and better the communication between the school and the library because the library is part of the school building.
The conversation went round and round over security issues at both buildings and it was agreed that the school's plans for a public address system include the library so the librarian and patrons would be apprised of an emergency.
The trustees were disappointed that the traffic problems during student pickup weren't addressed. Bua said they had been under the impression that parking lot congestion, which has been affecting library patrons, would also be discussed. Barnes said the school had made efforts to reduce the impact on the library.
Boucher said he wanted to create an ad hoc committee made up of representatives of the town, school and library to hash out those issues. The trustees and school officials were amenable to the idea.
Town Administrator Rebecca Stone said she had had a "wonderful visit" with the trustees and the library director and talked about many of the issues that had come up at the meeting.
"I think that everybody coming to the table and working together, it's the best place to start," she said.
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