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Board gets School safety committee recommendtions

The King George Board of Supervisors was provided a document containing recommendations and comments from members of a school safety collaborative committee that had been formally set up last February. The committee had held one meeting in early March, followed by email communications to capture the security ideas generated for each of the schools.

School division Superintendent Rob Benson talked about the committee’s two main recommendations earlier this month on Aug. 6 during a work session by the Board of Supervisors to discuss proposed capital projects. Those projects had been requested earlier this year, proposed for a five-year Capital Improvements Program (CIP).

The thrust of Benson’s presentation was to see if Supervisors would be willing to provide $25,000 in matching funds toward a state competitive grant of $100,000, if the division received the award in September. Benson had noted in the grant application submitted to the state that the cost would be requested through the county’s CIP.

Benson said this is the first of five years that the school security equipment grant is being offered to divisions and if awarded, it must be spent within six months to get reimbursement from the state.
TWO CONSISTENT RECOMMENDATIONS
Benson said several needs had been defined by committee members and offered for each school, with two recommendations consistent across all schools.

Those were for the acquisition and installation of a system that would provide the ability to monitor all exterior entrances from the main office that would include a card swipe system that could record door access. The system should also provide an alert system when a door is left ajar.

Benson said the second pervasive recommendation was for structural renovations that would provide a vestibule and access through the main offices for visitors to be accounted for upon arrival. This would be a ‘forced-welcome’ similar to the entrance at King George High School, which is the newest school, completed in 2009.

The grant funding, if awarded, would go toward addressing the first of the two recommendations. The four schools included in the grant for the card-swipe door access system are King George Middle School and the three elementary schools.

$250,000 COST OF CARD SWIPE SYSTEMS
But $25,000 requested from the county should the division receive and accept this year’s grant for $100,000 would not be enough.

Benson is actually asking for $150,000 from the county to make up the bulk of the estimated cost of $250,000 to provide and install the card swipe system in all four schools, as indicated in the grant application.

Supervisors made no promises to Benson.

Dale Sisson, chairman, and a member of the committee, appeared surprised by the request, commenting it was the first time he’d seen it.

Supervisor Joe Grzeika suggested that the project could be split over two years, saying another grant could be requested next year.

Benson agreed, but added he thought the chance of getting the competitive grant might be better this first year, with the information coming out from the state so close to the application deadline.

He said, “I’m hopeful that not that many divisions got it together to get it in, so we may have less competition this first year. I’m quite certain by next year there will be more applications and it may be more competitive.”

SECURITY CAMERAS IN CIP REQUEST
The card swipe monitoring system would be a new addition to the School Board’s 15 projects submitted earlier this year.

The division’s CIP does include a request for purchase and installation of security camera systems for all three elementary schools, the middle school, the School Board office and the stadium.

The ability for video coverage by cameras for all interior and exterior areas of the schools was another of the recommendations that was put forward by committee members representing all six of the school buildings (which includes the preschool).

That project is estimated at $591,150. Benson has requested that project for two years from now, in fiscal year 2015-16.

COMMITTEE BACKGROUND
Benson had been made chairman of the school security collaborative committee as recommended by Sheriff Steve Dempsey last February when the committee was formally established by Supervisors.

In addition to Benson and Dempsey, the committee included John Davis, chairman of the School Board, Sisson, as chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Travis Quesenberry, as county administrator, each of the school principals, and officers from the PTAs.

Prior to the formal establishment of the committee, a working group had been started up late last fall by Dempsey, after concerns were expressed when unfounded rumors had been circulated about a ‘violent act’ said to be planned for a specific day prior to the winter holiday break at King George High School.

The desire for exploring ideas for increased school security measures was also given impetus by the tragic elementary school shootings last Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook school in Connecticut that had shaken the country.
Dempsey told Supervisors in February that they thought the group could generate several solutions for improving the security and safety of county schools.

STRUCTURAL CHANGES?
Dempsey and Benson had suggested in February that some structural changes at the schools should also be considered for added security.

As a result, Quesenberry had arranged a courtesy visit for Benson with an architect from Wiley/Wilson to visit each of the schools to look at the layout of entrances and consider potential structural adjustments that could enhance school security and student and staff safety.

Those would entail exterior and interior doorway security, primary entranceway configuration, and building-wide monitoring and communication.

Also at that February meeting, Supervisors urged Benson to focus on any structural changes that might be accomplished over the summer, saying it could be possible to use some reserve funds toward one-time projects. Those projects have not yet been brought forward.

Phyllis Cook 

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