$4.6 million plan would upgrade security at schools

By Bobby Bryant, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

The Darlington County school board is preparing for some long discussions and costly decisions as the district considers plans to upgrade security at county schools.

Last week, the board was briefed on a $4.6 million proposal to beef up security across the board at schools and district offices, but the school trustees took no action and will study the plan further at one or more work sessions.

The security proposal would include deploying hundreds of surveillance cameras (some high schools would get more than 100) as well as a tight system of key cards to open doors and upgrades to the district’s system for alerting students and staff about possible threats.

Diane Sigmon, executive director of technology for the school district, said the proposal would total $4.6 million, which would include cameras, key cards and improvements to the district’s “mass-notification systems.”

“We currently have a video-surveillance system in place,” Sigmon said.

“It’s very old and it’s somewhat piecemeal, and the management of it is very difficult, and we have a lot of cameras that are not capable of capturing the quality image that current-day cameras allow us to capture.”

Cost of the proposed video-surveillance system would be about $3.3 million, she said.

“With the age of our schools and the openness of our campuses, is this actually going to even touch what we really need to do in terms of safety?” asked board member Charles Govan.

“It goes back to what you want to do,” board chairman Jamie Morphis said at one point in the discussion. “Do you want to encapsulate these schools … ?”

Referring to plans for access cards for students and staff, Morphis said: “At what point do we put ourselves in a cage? … ”

In other business, the board emerged from an executive session and approved a change in the contract structure of the process for building some new schools in the county.

Because of bad weather, pre-bid deadlines are being pushed back “a short amount of time.”

Also, the board approved a $250 Christmas bonus for full-time employees. The bonus will take effect before the Christmas vacation.

“Our employees are truly dedicated to the work they do,” said Morphis.

“ … They deserve that and more. This is one way of recognizing them and showing them our deep appreciation for their efforts on behalf of our students and families.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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