Portsmouth looks at $225K in safety protocols after intruder assaults teacher

Marcus Schlip (WJAR)

The Portsmouth School Committee approved a measure Tuesday to make school buildings more secure.

The measure will go to the Town Council for funding approval. It calls for about $225,000 to fund safety and security upgrades, primarily in the middle and high schools.

Superintendent Ana Riley said plans to discuss the three-year Capital Safety Plan and security budget were on Tuesday’s agenda long before an incident at Portsmouth High School on Jan. 30 when a former student punched a teacher and forced himself into the gym while carrying a knife.

However, Riley said that incident adds a sense of urgency to get the improvements done as soon as possible.

“We can’t let it happen again, so we really want to move that process forward,” Riley said.

Riley said plans are in the works to install a buzzer system in the high school and the middle school.

One has already been installed at an elementary school under the three-year Capital Safety Plan, which also aims to add funding for four security officers, one in each school.

“It’s just a wake-up call that people do things,” said School Committee Chair Terri Cortvriend. “You think, 'Oh, this can’t happen here.' But you know when you read the papers, it really could happen anywhere.”

The School Committee will ask the Town Council to approve funding for the next two years of that safety plan to get the work done sooner.

Marcus Schlip, 22, has been accused of punching and kicking a teacher who tried to stop him from getting into the Portsmouth High School gym two weeks ago. He was later arrested in the main office.

Police said they found a military-style knife in his backpack.

“Safety is paramount,” Cortvriend said.

School officials said the goal is to have all of the upgrades completed by the end of this year.

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