LIMERICK — The Spring-Ford Area School Board voted 5-2 to move forward with the first two phases of a proposed four-phase improvement to the school district’s surveillance system.
“We did establish there is a need to upgrade the systems in our buildings,” said Superintendent David Goodin in a presentation at a Sept. 16 board workshop. “We are finding that in some situations they are unreliable and in some situations those systems have stopped recording.”
In the subsequent Sept. 23 meeting with board members Julie Mullin and Joe Ciresi absent, Clara Gudolonis, Edward Dressler, Bernard Pettit, Dawn Heine and Willard Cromley all voted in favor of the camera system improvements.
Mark Dehnert and Tim DiBello voted against it.
Dehnert wanted to see a wider, comprehensive plan regarding security around the district before spending money on a camera system.
“Let’s set our objective first and then figure out what solution we want to meet that objective,” he said. “It feels like we’re setting up something first and then figuring out how we’re going to use it.”
DiBello said he agreed with Dehnert’s sentiment that there should be a multi-year strategic plan, though he pointed out that the improvements added to the high school system were because the system there wasn’t performing to the district’s liking.
“I know we need to get the system upgraded at the high school, so it’s a tough decision there,” DiBello said.
Heine maintained that the phased plan was a part of a comprehensive plan.
The board initially began talking about the cameras in the vein of student safety after Goodin’s presentation.
“When it comes to our students’ safety, it’s almost priceless,” DiBello said at the Sept. 16 meeting.
As discussion continued, it became clear that though the cameras might act as a deterrent for crime, their implementation focuses more on securing district buildings and providing a way to “solve” or gather information to settle disputes or crimes on district property, according to Goodin’s presentation. He said the district surveillance cameras are in place to “investigate disciplinary and vandalism events” as well as “monitor students.”
“We’re able to monitor movement around the buildings and property, and (the system) also gives us a log of entry and exit,” Goodin said.
There have been some recent instances of vandalism in the district, including one at Royersford Elementary over Memorial Day weekend in which three teenagers caused roughly $14,000 in damage.
The first two phases of installation are expected to cost $206,489 total, according to Goodin.
Business Manager Timothy Anspach said the school district put $300,000 marked for a security system upgrade in reserve already.
For Phase I, the entire central system in Spring-Ford would be updated and all cameras would be digital.
According to Goodin, the current analog system doesn’t have enough storage capability and periodically fails.
Additionally, a digital system would provide higher quality images and also provide zoom for when it was needed.
Phase II consists of adding high resolution camera to various sites. The senior high school, 10-12 Center would get 13 new cameras, the 9th Grade Center would get 16, Coach McNelly Stadium would get four and Ram Stadium would receive four.
Goodin said there was talk of the American Legion providing some funding for cameras at Ram Stadium.
As a part of the plans which have not yet been approved, Phase III would consist of adding cameras to the middle school buildings and Phase IV would add cameras to the elementary schools.
Phase III would cost $183,992 and Phase IV would cost $200,866.
During the initial presentation Sept. 16, Pettit questioned why the district would hold off on putting cameras in the elementary schools.
“It was more a matter of needing to take a look at this in chunks,” Goodin said. “I will say, when you look at student discipline, different things that would happen, you’re going to have more activity in secondary schools.”
Planning for the system upgrade started last year, Goodin said, and involved the district’s security head as well as building administrators.
Implementation of the final two phases would most likely occur after the first two phases are installed and the district can evaluate their effectiveness.