Timeline unclear for installing Wake school security upgrades

khui@newsobserver.comMarch 14, 2014 

— Millions of dollars in security upgrades – promised to families since the 2012 Connecticut school massacre – are coming to Wake County schools, but there’s no date certain for installing the new equipment.

School administrators said Wednesday that they will ask the Wake County Board of Commissioners in July to provide $7.1 million for upgrades such as more surveillance cameras, a key-card door access system and an entrance buzzer system. But administrators did not have a timetable for when the upgrades, which are already funded, would be installed.

“I support moving forward with this as soon as possible because the one set of comments that I continue to receive most regularly from parents and others in the community is their concern over how easy it is to access our school campuses,” school board member Susan Evans said at the board committee meeting.

School safety became more of a national concern after a gunman killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012.

The shooting prompted the school board to form a task force to review school safety practices. About the same time, school security staff presented a plan for $18.1 million in upgrades.

Both the school board and commissioners agreed in June to reduce the amount to $7.1 million, using bond money to cover the cost. The plan, linked to October’s $810 million school construction bond issue that was approved by voters, calls for the system to:

• Make sure there’s a minimum of 64 security cameras at each high school, 32 cameras at each middle school and 16 cameras at each elementary school.

• Install a card access system at all elementary schools.

• Install an entrance buzzer system at every elementary school, including electronic door locks, a security camera and an intercom. When the front door is locked, visitors would need to be buzzed into the building.

Joe Desormeaux, the school district’s assistant superintendent for facilities, said administrators had not requested the bond money yet because they had been reviewing the safety task force’s recommendations, released in June. Among the recommendations were standardizing the camera systems and card access systems at schools.

Based on the review, Desormeaux said, the system is going forward with what was approved last year.

Many of the upgrades that will be added in Wake were already in place at Sandy Hook Elementary, where the gunman shot his way past the locked doors and buzzer system.

In an interview, Evans said she’s not expecting the new security measures to deter a committed gunman. But she said the upgrades would provide Wake parents peace of mind about trespassers.

School board member Kevin Hill, a former elementary school principal, also said in an interview that the measures could help make schools safer.

“If it helps to deter a single incident, it’s worth installing,” he said.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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