...with tech­nol­ogy,

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - AM­BER PITTMAN apittman@cov­news.com

Sev­eral class­rooms in New­ton County are par­tic­i­pat­ing in a pi­lot pro­gram for stu­dent and teacher safety, and with the re­cent school shoot­ings in New­town, the lo­cal sys­tem is get­ting a lot of at­ten­tion for the pro­gram.

The School Alert For Ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram is in 20 class­rooms at New­ton High School, two in Veter­ans Me­mo­rial Mid­dle School and one in the New­ton Col­lege and Ca­reer Academy. Used both as a tool for teach­ers and a de­ter­rent for stu­dents, SAFE places two cam­eras in ev­ery class­room and pro­vides teach­ers with a tear-drop mi­cro­phone around their necks that has a silent alarm but­ton that will alert the front of­fice in case of an emer­gency.

The pro­gram was fea­tured in a school safety story on CNN Thurs­day night and was in­cluded in a dis­cus­sion on Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio.

When a teacher hits the emer­gency but­ton on his re­mote, it sends a silent sig­nal to nine peo­ple in­side the build­ing, in­clud­ing the stu­dent re­source of­fi­cer, front desk per­son­nel and ad­min­is­tra­tors. Th­ese nine peo­ple will also re­ceive an email with a photo and a link. The link di­rects them to a site where they can watch a live stream­ing video of the class­room. An ac­ti­vated alert from any teacher will also au­to­mat­i­cally turn on all the cam­eras in the other class­rooms.

NHS prin­ci­pal Craig Lock­hart said that hav­ing the SAFE pro­gram in the 20 class­rooms has cut down on stu­dent be­hav­ioral is­sues.

“Frankly, the is­sue of school se­cu­rity has so con­cerned those of us in ad­min­is­tra­tion that this pi­lot has been in place for months now in NCSS prior to the Con­necti­cut tragedy,” said Su­per­in­ten­dent Gary Mathews.

The cost of the sys­tem is roughly $4,400 per class­room and, ac­cord­ing to Mathews, it is ex­pected to be in­stalled in ev­ery class­room when the new New­ton High School opens in Au­gust 2013. To in­stall it in ev­ery mid­dle and high school class­room would cost the NCSS ap­prox­i­mately $3 mil­lion, Mathews said in an email Wed­nes­day.

“Nat­u­rally, this kind of fund­ing is not avail­able within the gen­eral fund,” said Mathews. “It would have to come out of the up­com­ing SPLOST elec­tion to be held in March of 2013. At this time, the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion cer­tainly has this as an op­tion be­fore it when it comes to the use of SPLOST IV funds should the elec­tion turn out fa­vor­ably. Ob­vi­ously, given the Con­necti­cut shoot­ings in­volv­ing small chil­dren and staff, it is cer­tainly more than plau­si­ble to in­stall the cam­era/silent alarm sys­tem in each of our school sys­tem’s ele­men­tary class­rooms, the theme school and the New­ton Col­lege and Ca­reer Academy. To do so would in­crease the cost, but a suc­cess­ful SPLOST IV would so pro­vide the funds should the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion be so in­clined.”

Although no other board mem­bers have spo­ken yet about the pos­si­bil­ity, District 4 rep­re­sen­ta­tive Al­mond Turner said in a pre­vi­ous story that he be­lieved the NCSS would have cam­eras in all class­rooms.

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