Parents in Lindenhurst are protesting the school district's removal of security guards from its elementary schools.
More than a dozen parents gathered Friday at Daniel Street Elementary, one of six schools that will no longer have security guards when classes resume in January. The guards were placed there after the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut a year ago.
"Our kids are vulnerable now," said Jeannie Sailer, 38, who has a fourth-grader who attends Daniel Street.
The district's middle school and high school, which have long had guards, will continue to have them, district officials said.
The guards at elementary schools were always intended to be temporary and were not budgeted for this year, Superintendent Richard Nathan said. He said the guards were kept on in September because the district had not finished installing panic buttons. The buttons are now in all of the schools, he said.
Earlier this month, the school board approved new security measures, including additional video cameras, card access control, video intercom systems for greeters, text message one-button lockdown and door-ajar notification.
The new system will cost $400,000 to put in place, Nathan said. The guards cost $200,000 a year.
"It's basically a total package to try and make our schools and grounds safer," he said.
Parents and staff remain wary, however.
"It's a little scary," said special-education aide Tracey Baum, 48. "The security improvements haven't been made yet."
Nathan said they hope to finish the installation within the next two months.
Sailer called the unarmed guards, many who are former police officers, a "security blanket" that gave parents "peace of mind."
"They're not going to have anything in place when the kids go back to school," she said. "I want a physical presence."
Many accused the board of making the decision behind closed doors, but board member Edward Murphy Jr. said the guards were discussed at budget hearings last spring and the board held a "very publicized" security workshop in October.
"We made it clear we would be making decisions," he said.