Clifton Park

Shen plans to use state funds for security projects

New communication system would allow instant communication between school buildings, teachers in emergencies
Shenendehowa Central Schools entrance on Route 146 in Clifton Park is pictured.
Shenendehowa Central Schools entrance on Route 146 in Clifton Park is pictured.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

CLIFTON PARK — The Shenendehowa Central School District plans to utilize state funds to increase school security and upgrade the district’s wireless infrastructure and notification system.

At its Tuesday meeting, the board of education received an update about the district’s Smart Schools Bond Act Initiative plan.

The Smart Schools Bond Act was approved by the state in 2014 and set aside about $2 billion for schools statewide. 

Shen received $3,926,194 for a Smart Schools Investment Plan, which must be submitted to the state Education Department for final approval.

There are multiple categories that Smart Schools funds can be allocated to, including classroom connectivity, pre-K classroom improvements, elimination of temporary or trailer classrooms, and school security and safety.

Shen’s Smart Schools Investment Plan will focus on classroom connectivity and school security, said Ken McDermith, director of learning technology at the district. 

The decision came after meetings with the district administration to analyze what long-term investments Smart Schools funds could be used for. Conditions of various district buildings were also considered throughout the process.

“That’s the area that we’re looking to focus on,” McDermith said. “We tried to boil all of those things together and come up with things that we really wanted to target with this process.”

Potential security enhancements Shen is looking to implement include an updated telephone and public address system and fortifying the building’s security infrastructure.

Shen’s telephone and PA systems are 17 years old, McDermith said. If Shen’s Smart Schools plan is approved by the state, the district will implement a wireless network-based communications system that will allow alerts and phone calls to go to every building and teacher simultaneously. 

Right now, Shen does not have a phone or PA system that allows instant notification to all schools. In the event of a lockdown or other emergency, said Shen Board of Education President Bill Casey, that ability is crucial.

“This allows us ability to link in,” he said. “That’s a big deal when something is going on.”

The new phone system is estimated to cost $1.9 million, and the new PA system is estimated to cost $750,000, according to McDermith.

Swipe cards to access school buildings, as well as updated keypads, could also be included in the security upgrade. 

Emergency generator power for Shen’s buildings that don’t currently have them will also be included, at an estimated cost of $1,150,000.

District security upgrades will also come in the form of a bolstered video surveillance system, an effort for which district officials are partnering with federal and state law enforcement officials. 

Casey noted Shen already has a video surveillance system, and that the decision to use the Smart Schools funds for school security was not prompted by the February massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas school in Florida.

While some of the money from the Smart Schools program could be used for the video surveillance upgrade, Casey pointed out that about $300,000 has been set aside in the 2018-19 budget to  address such smaller security projects. 

The Smart Schools funds, Casey said, are meant to help the district pay for large-scale projects and save budget money for other things, including the new cameras.

“This money allows us to do the big bang things,” he said. “It means we don’t have to add them into our budget.”

Shen will hold a public hearing on the proposed Smart Schools Investment Plan at its May 8 school board meeting. After the plan is approved by the board of education, it will be submitted to the state Education Department.

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