School board meeting highlights security upgrades

School board meeting highlights security upgrades

The Lenoir County Board of Education received an update during this week’s board meeting on the progress of ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of schoolchildren in the district.

Lenoir County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Nicholas Harvey spoke about the goal “to close gaps at our facilities and establish a minimum standard of safety.” Part of that minimum standard, he said, was to ensure that all schools were equipped with a locked front door with a buzz-in system and camera feature to clearly identify visitors, and also access control doors to prevent entry of non- school personnel.

The school board views live video from Rochelle Middle School Photo by Catherine Hardee/Neuse News

The school board views live video from Rochelle Middle School Photo by Catherine Hardee/Neuse News

Another aspect of security that is being upgraded is video surveillance systems at all schools in the county. Harvey said seven-and-a-half schools have had their systems upgraded and he invited Down East Protection Systems owner Tom Vermillion to show the board the finished product of the upgrades. Vermillion showed the board live images from some of the upgraded schools, as well as a comparison of the video quality with the previous systems.

Harvey said the new cameras store images for 30 days, and can be shared with law enforcement should an incident occur. He noted the new system had already proven its worth in the fall, when an intruder on the North Lenoir High School campus was caught on campus and apprehended due to the high quality of the cameras. North Lenoir Principal Gil Respess said without the new cameras, apprehension of the suspect might not have been possible.

Schools that already have the new camera system are Northwest Elementary School, Southwood Elementary School, Contentnea-Savannah School, Moss Hill Elementary, North Lenoir, Rochelle Middle School and Banks Elementary School. Southeast Elementary has had the new system installed in the new PreK site, and the existing cameras will be upgraded soon. South Lenoir High School is next on the list.

Vermillion also spoke to the board about the next phase of security upgrades, which involves incorporating the access control and cameras into an active alert system. The system would have an application that would allow school personnel to instantly alert law enforcement about an active shooter situation and give a precise location of the threat, and allow an offsite monitoring station to access the school’s cameras to track the threat.

The alert system would also alert all teachers to the situation, and give real-time information to every classroom of the location of the danger. Vermillion said if his children were still in the school system, he would want this system in place.

“They are going to have more information that’s vital to protecting as many kids as we can,” he said.

Vermillion said he hopes to have this next phase underway by February or March at the latest. Harvey thanked the county commissioners for providing funding for the security upgrades. LCPS Public Information Officer Patrick Holmes said the county allocated $573,000 for the project.

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