School district looks at $150,000 in se­cu­rity up­grades

North Penn Life - - News - By Jen­nifer Law­son Jlaw­son@jour­nalregis­ter.com

In the wake of the school shoot­ing in Con­necti­cut, the North Penn School District’s safe schools com­mit­tee is propos­ing $150,000 worth of se­cu­rity up­grades.

Th­ese in­clude ad­di­tional cam­eras, por­ta­ble ra­dios and card swipe/buzzer sys­tems, as well as im­proved light­ing and in­te­rior mod­i­fi­ca­tions. It also calls for an ex­pan­sion of the Na­tional In­ci­dent Man­age­ment Sys­tem train­ing.

The cur­rent pro­posal doesn’t in­clude armed guards or school po­lice of­fi­cers.

Be­fore such a plan would move for­ward, the district would need to con­duct re­search and ob­tain in­put and rec­om­men­da­tions from var­i­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions, law en- force­ment, ad­min­is­tra­tors and par­ents, Su­per­in­ten­dent Cur­tis Di­et­rich said.

“There’s a lot to process in that re­gard,” he said.

The cost for se­cu­rity up­grades would come from the district’s cap­i­tal bud­get, and of­fi­cials will also be look­ing into the avail­abil­ity of grants.

Ray Wil­son, safe schools co­or­di­na­tor, didn’t want to give specifics about which schools need which up­grades.

The cam­eras and por­ta­ble ra­dios would be able to con­nect with lo­cal law en­force­ment to ex­pe­dite their re­sponse in the event of an emer­gency, he said.

The es­ti­mated cost of the up­grade to the cam­era sys­tem would be $25,000 and would al­low the six po­lice de­part­ments that cover the district’s schools to have ac- cess to the cam­eras through lap­top com­put­ers in their cruis­ers when a crit­i­cal in­ci­dent arises.

“It would let the re­spond­ing of­fi­cers see what’s hap­pen­ing be­fore they ar­rive,” Di­et­rich said. “The tech­nol­ogy does ex­ist and it’s some­thing of great in­ter­est to us.”

The por­ta­ble ra­dio up­grade would cost $40,000 and would al­low for in­ter­op­er­abil­ity be­tween schools and po­lice, Wil­son said. The district is work­ing with law en­force­ment on a plan to have ac­cess to its sec­ondary chan­nels on po­lice ra­dios through the district’s por­ta­ble ra­dios.

Some schools al­ready have card read­ers and buzzer sys­tems; the cost to ex­pand it to ad­di­tional schools would be $51,000, ac­cord­ing to the pro­posal.

District em­ploy­ees would en­ter the build­ings via a swipe card. Vis­i­tors are buzzed in, asked to show iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and an in­stant back­ground check is con­ducted. Then the vis­i­tor is given a stick-on ID tag with his or her name and photo on it. Be­fore leav­ing, the vis­i­tor must re­turn the sticker to the of­fice.

Im­proved ex­te­rior light­ing is needed at some schools, Wil­son said. When stu­dents are dropped off for be­fore and af­ter-school pro­grams, it’s some­times be­fore and af­ter the sun rises and sets. He also has plans for phys­i­cal mod­i­fi­ca­tions to some build­ings, par­tic­u­larly the en­trances and vestibules of cer­tain schools. The cost for th­ese im­prove­ments would be $33,000.

NIMS train­ing is a three­hour, e-based sys­tem that Wil­son would like to bring to all teach­ers, staff, ad­min­is­tra­tors, school board mem­bers and other groups who work with stu­dents at an es­ti­mated to­tal cost of $1,000. It’s also pos­si­ble that the train­ing could be done live with an in­struc­tor from the county.

With most of the up­grades fo­cused on keep­ing stu­dents safe from in­trud­ers, com­mit­tee mem­ber Suzan Leonard asked how the district keeps stu­dents safe from each other.

Wil­son said that so­cial me­dia has re­sulted in is­sues on a daily ba­sis, but that the district has a good sys­tem for re­port­ing ha­rass­ment and cy­ber­bul­ly­ing and of­fi­cials have cur­tailed sit­u­a­tions that could have turned se­ri­ous.

He pointed out that most teach­ers try to stand in the halls dur­ing class changes, which helps to keep the peace, and that the cafe­te­ria is heav­ily mon­i­tored dur­ing lunch pe­ri­ods.

since Sher­pin­sky, pres­i­dent of the school board, was one of seven au­di­ence mem­bers at the meet­ing. A teacher in the Coun­cil Rock School District, he said teach­ers are re­quired to stand in the halls while stu­dents change classes.

“The hu­man part can’t be over­looked,” Sher­pin­sky said. “Teach­ers in Coun­cil Rock have to be in the halls. It’s a great de­ter­rent, a great tool, and we do it ev­ery day ... I don’t think it’s a big chal­lenge to just stand out­side your class­room.”

The district will be mov­ing for­ward with th­ese up­grades as soon as pos­si­ble, with some be­ing im­ple­mented over the sum­mer, Wil­son said.

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