Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Principals favor increased school security

Safety and security proposal could cost district $2.24 million


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Tom Bailey Raul Ornelas

Four Blaine County School District principals who attended a special school board meeting Monday night said they agree with a proposal to increase school security.

"Any increased security that we can do is going to be beneficial," said Hailey Elementary School Principal Tom Bailey. "We can't make it a prison, it's a school and people are coming and going, but we can make it safer."

Bailey and three other district principals, Carey School Principal John Peck, Bellevue Elementary School Principal Angie Martinez and Wood River Middle School Principal Fritz Peters, agreed that increased security is needed when asked their opinions by school board Chair Steve Guthrie. The discussion came about when district Business Manager Mike Chatterton was telling the board about a proposal for future borrowing on a 10-year $59.8 million plant facilities levy approved by Blaine County voters in 2009.

The school board has already approved borrowing on $20.97 million in future levy revenues to fund an aggressive building and facility upgrade and repair campaign. The money is being borrowed through a federal government economic stimulus program that allows school construction bond sales at no interest to the borrower.

Chatterton is now proposing that the district borrow another $6.23 million to fund site improvements at Carey School, facility improvements at Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum and security and safety upgrades throughout the district.

About $2.24 million would be spent on safety and security upgrades. The proposal includes adding numerous surveillance cameras throughout district facilities with the capability of providing live video feeds to police and school security personnel. Also, an electronic lockdown system would be installed on all exterior facility doors, which would be accessible by programmed cards rather than keys. Further, the funding would provide remodeling of the main entrances to Wood River Middle School and Wood River High School so that access during school hours would only be through the front office.

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"This will give us better control of those schools," Chatterton said.

Bailey said he has 26 exterior doors at his school to worry about.

"The biggest thing I've asked for is to lock down all the doors with one button," Bailey said.

Peters said his school currently has 16 video surveillance cameras but needs more because their coverage is limited. Even so, he said, the existing cameras help to curb fighting, bullying, harassment, theft and vandalism.

"There's not a lot of days go by when you don't wonder what could happen," Peck said.

School authorities are not only concerned about a violence-minded intruder. They're also concerned about parents from divorces who try to pick up children when they're not legally allowed. Bailey said he has a nagging concern about a sexual offender trying to kidnap a child at school.

Hailey police Patrolman Raul Ornelas, who serves as resource officer at Wood River High School, told the board that the system would not be perfect.

"What we're trying to do is minimize anything that could happen," Ornelas said. "The chances of anyone getting in are less great if you funnel them through that office. I don't have eyes everywhere."

The proposal will likely be considered by the board within the next few months.

"You can't really ever put a price to it, if something happens that we could have prevented," said district Superintendent Lonnie Barber.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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