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Tallmadge City Schools take more steps to increase security

Buildings equipped with walkie talkies, video surveillance may be upgraded

by Holly Schoenstein | reporter Published: February 3, 2013 12:00 AM

Tallmadge -- Tallmadge City Schools is continuing to incorporate measures and consider more ways to increase security at each building in the district.

In addition to secure vestibules possibly being created at the front entrances of Dunbar Primary and Munroe Elementary schools, district officials have equipped each building with walkie talkies, are thinking about upgrading the video surveillance systems and plan to have staff continue with training related to dealing with threats involving guns.

Steve Wood, the district's business director, said the walkie talkies are a complement to ALICE training -- Alert, Lockdown, Information, Counter and Evacuate -- some of the staff has undergone.

Over the last four years, the district invested about $4,000 on 19 walkie talkies. Dunbar and Munroe received four each last month, and the middle school got five last school year. The high school has had six since it opened in 2008, Wood said.

Certain key staff at each of the buildings within the district have the walkie talkies, typically a custodian, principal and others, depending on the size of the building.

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"Staff members, during any sort of drill or real event, will be able to communicate clearly with one another on the grounds so we'll know where folks are, and it just provides a better communication," he said.

The devices enable staff to communicate within each building and also across the district.

As part of the district's goal of increasing security, it's considering upgrading the video surveillance systems at some of its buildings.

"In all of our buildings we presently have surveillance system capability. The high school is the most sophisticated," Wood said.

Cameras in the hallways, common areas and outside of the high school record footage that's stored on a large computer hard drive, and staff use software to scan it.

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The rest of the school buildings have video tape-based surveillance systems that have less storage capacity and are not as efficient to use as staff must manually fast-forward and rewind the tapes.

Wood said the school district is considering upgrading the older systems to match that of the high school's. He estimated that new systems at Dunbar and Munroe would cost about $20,000 each, the middle school's about $30,000.

A third element of the district's plan to enhance security is continuing to have all staff participate in ALICE training. Superintendent Jeff Ferguson said some staff have gone through a basic level of the training, and the district will have all of the staff participate during the next session sometime in the spring. Students will be dismissed early that day, he said.

Wood said a lot of the district's strategy of increasing security revolves around the awareness of staff.

"Our superintendent spent time with the principals to talk about security, and likewise the principals have talked to their staff," he said. "A lot of what's going on is awareness, being wary of doors be secure, being extra vigilant with the front office areas and the main entrances to the buildings."

Email: hschoenstein@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9428

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