If voters pass an $8 million no-tax increase bond issue in April, the Union R-XI School District officials want to use some of the money to improve school safety.
The board of education unanimously voted last week to take necessary steps to put the bond issue on the April ballot to pay for capital projects that are too costly for a typical budget. The projects would include new rooftops, as well as other building improvements totaling an estimated $6.4 million.
Superintendent Steve Bryant said some of the remaining monies could go toward technology infrastructure and additional safety features at each of the district’s six school buildings.
Bryant, along with administration and school resource officers, conducted a walk-through safety assessment at district schools Friday, Feb. 1, to identify “soft targets.”
“One of the things we identified,” Bryant said, “is that we need to work on the interior and exterior locking system and expand our surveillance systems in a couple of buildings.”
Chris Arand, assistant high school principal, said the district is looking at purchasing more video surveillance cameras and an improved locking system to provide more coverage at school entryways.
“That way, we could tell if a door is propped open, which can happen at any time,” Arand said.
Bryant said the district is looking at improving the district’s network system, which right now runs in a straight line.
“Two weeks ago, the (network system) went down at the new roundabout and the high school was shut off,” he said. “We are looking at making a final loop so that way, if something goes down, it might only be one facility (affected) and the rest of the district would still be online.”
Bryant said if the break in the system had been in another spot on the line, it could have affected two or three buildings.
The network system not only supports the district’s Internet service, but also includes the phone system, Bryant said, so if the system goes down, it would presently cut off communication within the affected buildings.
Bryant said he hasn’t come up with an official total cost to make these safety improvements, but just improving the bandwidth of the technology infrastructure alone could easily reach the $100,000 range.
Although there is always room to improve safety measures, Bryant stressed that the district already has procedures in place to ensure the well-being of its student body and staff.
School resource officer Kevin Anderson said law enforcement in Franklin County has recently acquired software that allows instant access to mapping systems and emergency procedures at every school in the county. In addition, law enforcement has been more visible in and around school buildings, especially since the school shootings in Newtown, Conn.
The school also has a “closed campus” policy which means there is no outside access to any building without approval of school personnel.