CLIFTON PARK — The Shenendehowa Central School District has plans to utilize state funding to increase school security and upgrade the district’s wireless infrastructure and notification system.
At its March 27 meeting, the Shen board of education received an update about the district’s proposed Smart Schools Bond Act Initiative plan.
The Smart Schools Bond Act was approved by the state in 2014, and set aside about $2 billion in funding to be distributed throughout districts across New York.
Shen received $3,926,194 to be used to develop a Smart Schools Investment Plan, which must be submitted to the New York State Education Department for final approval.
There are multiple categories for which SSBA funds can be allocated, including classroom connectivity, pre-kindergarten classroom improvements,elimination of temporary or trailer classrooms and school security and safety.
Shen’s SSIP will focus on classroom connectivity and school security, Ken McDermith, director of learning technology at the district, said at the board meeting.
The decision came after meetings with the district administration to analyze what long-term investments the SSBA funds could be put toward. 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 that Shen is looking to implement include an updated telephone and public address system, and fortifying building security procedures.
Shen’s telephone and PA systems are 17 years old, McDermith said. If Shen’s SSIP is approved by the state, the district will implement a wireless network-based IP system that will allow alerts and phone calls to go out 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 would be 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 included in the security upgrade.
Emergency generator power for Shen’s building that don’t currently have it will also be included at a cost estimated to be $1,150,000, as well as fiber connector modifications for $100,000
District security upgrades will also come in the form of a bolstered video surveillance system.
District officials are currently partnering with federal and state law enforcement to develop plans that will increase school security and safety, and an improved video-surveillance system is one project that Shen is working on.
Casey noted that Shen already has a video surveillance system in place, and that the decision to use the SSBA funds for school security was not prompted by the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Florida.
While some of the money from the SSBA could be used for that video camera project, Casey pointed out that about $300,000 has been set aside in the 2018-2019 budget to specifically address such smaller security projects.
The SSBA funds, Casey said, are meant to help the district pay for large-scale projects and save that budget money for other priorities, 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 SSIP plan at its May 8 school board meeting. After the plan is approved by the board of education, it will be submitted to the New York State Education Department.