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Lakeridge will add security cameras

For years, the Lake Oswego School District backed away from putting security cameras around its schools, saying there wasn't a need for such a purchase.

But at the urging of parents, the district's school board Monday approved the installation of cameras overlooking Lakeridge High School parking lots.

The Pacer Parent Club plans to raise an estimated $5,000 for two cameras during the school's annual auction Feb. 24.

The exterior cameras will become the first installed at any district building, although both high schools were designed to include them.

'We want to be the first to have safety in our parking lots,' said Mary Vigo, the club's president. 'It's more of a prevention mechanism than anything. We do think it's an issue.'

The idea to install cameras was brought before the board twice before, said Superintendent Bill Korach.

While more districts began using cameras in the years following the late 1990s shootings at high schools such as Columbine and Thurston, the district determined them unnecessary for local schools.

According to Korach, officials also didn't want to create a prison-like atmosphere where students were constantly monitored by 'Big Brother.'

'You don't want to overreact or underreact, so we believe the kind of approaches are in keeping with the kind of experience we've had with our students and the community,' Korach said.

'We're very fortunate to live in an extremely safe community with a tremendous police presence.'

This time around, however, board members agreed that extra surveillance would help keep students safe as they leave the school after dark. Many extracurricular activities, such as dances and play rehearsals, often end after 9 p.m.

'We want our kids to feel confident when they walk to their cars at night,' said Vigo, whose daughter stays after school for lacrosse and cross-country practice.

Board members suggested emphasizing to students that the cameras will benefit them and enhance their protection.

'You have an exceptionally positive relationship and trust relationship with the kids,' Korach told Lakeridge Principal Mike Lehman. 'We need to give them a worthwhile guarantee that the cameras will not be used to monitor student behavior.'

It is likely that the cameras will record during nights, weekends and school breaks - when unsavory behaviors tend to occur.

Lakeridge has experienced minor vandalism, such as graffiti, and car break-ins in the past.

'Lakeridge students will appreciate the fact that their parents want to emphasize the importance of safety and security at school,' Lehman said, noting that he considers Lakeridge a safe campus.

Recorded footage can also be shared with the Lake Oswego Police Department. The district may eventually choose to expand its use of cameras to other schools, Korach said.

'It might turn out that we think it's a really good idea,' Korach said.

Board Chair Curt Sheinin, who coaches the Lakeridge boys lacrosse team, voiced his support for the project.

'The field is so far removed from the school that there is a need for some sort of security,' he said.