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Sign of the times: PPS installs security cameras

by: RITA A. LEONARD - Two video monitors in the Lane Middle School office - one scanning the front entrance (left), and the other the handicapped entrance (right). Whats displayed on these screens is also recorded, elsewhere in the building.Portland Public Schools announced in November that by the end of this school year, every K-8, elementary, and middle school building in the district will be equipped with a new video camera system. The project has already started in Inner Southeast. Deputy Chief Operating Officer Tony Magliano admitted that school-shooting incidents across the nation have increased awareness of the importance of monitoring who enters and exits school buildings. The security systems will enable office staff to better prepare for possible emergencies.

The $1.4 million project is supported by the construction excise tax and facility maintenance funds.

District high schools will receive security equipment during a later phase of the project, “since staff and students there generally have more complex traffic patterns”. Magliano recommended the upgrades: “It sounded like a pretty good project,” he remarked. “It will also allow schools to avoid the expense of changing locks for an entire building if a staffmember loses keys.”

In the first round of security upgrades, announced at a press conference at Buckman School, Superintendent Carole Smith said, “By installing cameras and upgrading our school security systems, we’re investing in another level of security to keep staff and students safe.”

The project encompasses the installation of video recorders at school entrances, and equipping selected locked doors with electronic card readers to be used by staff during prescribed hours. School visitors will continue to enter via front doors and sign in at the office.

The new security camera systems, which can store up to ten days of video history, will be located over school entrance doors, documenting everyone who enters there. Images will appear in school offices on new monitors that allow staff to see who comes in the front doors. Installation of the additional security is nearly complete at the first fourteen Portland schools chosen for phase one.

The work takes place in several phases, depending upon various factors. Schools were prioritized based on which ones lacked a clear line-of-sight to the front doors, and also which schools were under-served with security equipment. A cost analysis is being developed for security installation at the high school level.

The Portland School District has already upgraded security at Whitman, Woodmere, Lane, and Marysville Schools, in Inner Southeast Portland, along with other schools in North and Northeast. Marysville, rebuilt and now reopened following a devastating fire in 2009, had the security system installed during the rebuilding process.