The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

January 15, 2013

Upgrades to school security likely in fall

By Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star

---- — A timeline has been developed for work on a recently approved capital project, Oneonta City School District Interim Superintendent David Rowley said.

Voters approved a $4.6 million project Jan. 8 by a vote of 392-193. It included projects at each building, with $1.5 million for districtwide technology and safety upgrades. Although the safety upgrades have been planned for a while, they became especially important following the recent school killings in Connecticut, school officials said. That work is expected to be completed by fall.

In response to the Connecticut shootings, the district has placed monitors that started Monday at the entrances to its three elementary schools as well as at the middle and high schools to screen visitors. Before that, the buildings were more open, Rowley said. That was a response to the shootings from the school’s safety committee that will be in effect until the safety upgrades are completed, he said.

The safety upgrades provide a system of card readers and video cameras that would allow staff to come and go, Rowley said. There would be a single entry point at each building where students and the general public would enter a locked vestibule after the school day begins. The inner door would have to be unlocked for someone to enter after they have been identified.

Experts are analyzing what took place during the school shooting at Newtown to see what more could be done to stop someone who wants to cause destruction, Rowley said. If new recommendations are made, the project can be adjusted to make the school safer, he said.

Oneonta Police Lt. Douglas Brenner said “nothing is going to be 100 percent,” but “it’s a step in the right direction.”

School safety involved a trade-off that involves locking the building or balancing safety with providing a positive student learning environment, he said.

After meeting with the architect Monday, Rowley said a conservative estimate is that the safety portion of the work will be completed this fall. All necessary documents for all phases of the work will be at the facilities and planning division of the state Education Department by June 1, he said.

There is no way of knowing how long it will take, but Rowley said he was hopeful that approval could come by Aug. 1, which would lead to an opening of bids by Sept. 1.

He said he was hopeful that work on projects such as the safety upgrades would begin soon after. While that work can continue when classes are in session, projects such as improving the drainage behind the middle/high school would have to be coordinated so work does not conflict with classes, he said.