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Members opted to begin negotiations for work on a new computerized card access system that would monitor and control who enters buildings.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Roanoke County education officials took additional steps Tuesday to increase security safeguards throughout the school system.
During a construction committee meeting Tuesday, the school board opted to begin negotiations for work on a new computerized card access system for the division’s buildings that would monitor and control who enters, as well as appropriate funds to begin a multiyear plan to upgrade the system’s security cameras.
Officials also spent considerable time discussing a feasibility study that suggests making some major changes to some school entrances to better secure them. Ultimately officials didn’t take action on that proposal, which could cost as much as $1.8 million, and for some schools mean losing classroom space to make way for new storefront entrances to monitor school visitors.
Board members debated whether they should delve into the system’s major capital fund to pay for such measures when the system’s economic outlook looks uncertain at best.
The discussion Tuesday marks ongoing talks in Roanoke County to strengthen school security measures in the aftermath of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December.
Roanoke County, like other school districts in the region and across the country, has had a renewed focus on safety protocols. A county task force met earlier this year to examine facilities and make recommendations. In recent months county schools officials have wrestled with how to stretch limited dollars on additional security measures.
“If we hadn’t had 20-some schoolchildren killed in Connecticut a few months ago, we wouldn’t be sitting here having this discussion,” board Chairman Jerry Canada said Tuesday, referring to the Newtown tragedy. “We are spending money beefing up our schools we wouldn’t have done, wouldn’t have thought to do, if that hadn’t happened.”
Earlier this year Roanoke County officials also installed cameras and buzzers to let visitors in schools that didn’t already have the equipment.
The school board also recently opted to put new field houses on hold in favor of making that money available in its minor capital account for potential security upgrades. Those funds will help pay for the measures approved Tuesday.
The new card access system was among the safety task force’s top priorities. It would give local law enforcement access to school buildings, and a centralized computer system would remotely monitor all comings and goings.
It would also enable all schools to be uniformly accessed via key card (all staffers will have cards) and would scan the driver’s licenses of visitors to buildings.
The system includes panic buttons for administrators in the event of an emergency.
The cost is expected to be about $1.38 million plus an additional $60,000 to rekey the system’s doors to be compatible.
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