In Saginaw, Mich., $3.1M for School Safety

Saginaw School District officials plan to spend more than $3.1 million this summer to improve security at Saginaw and Arthur Hill high schools.

The upgrades will feature new entrances on the east end of each building with visitor and student parking, and a security post where staff will monitor traffic, visitors and a phalanx of cameras.

The security outpost is not an office "just to sit down and have coffee and doughnuts," said Daniel LaPan, executive director of facility services. "There'll be a lot going on there."

At each high school, technicians will install about 90 cameras covering almost every square inch of the campuses, inside and out.

The cameras will eye hallways and stairwells along with auditoriums, cafeterias, food preparation areas and gymnasiums.

"If you sneeze, we'll see you," said district spokesman Michael Manley.

Since an October 2005 shooting at Saginaw High, staff members have funneled students at the school through metal detectors at one entrance, creating congestion without addressing other concerns.

At the behest of her principal, Saginaw High senior Ashley Staffney joined the school's safety committee more than a year ago.

Staffney, a graduating senior, won't see the upgrades but said she hopes the cameras and manned entrances will help curb crime in and around the school.

"Our students and the community will feel safer," the 18-year-old said. "It'll take some time to get used to, but the benefits will be great."

Crews should begin construction at Saginaw High on Monday, June 11, and at Arthur Hill on Thursday, June 14.

Plans call for wrapping up work before the start of classes in September, LaPan said.

Money from the district's $70 million school construction tax will cover the $1.65 million for the Saginaw High construction. Officials expect the work at Arthur Hill to cost roughly the same amount or slightly less.

The Saginaw News could not immediately reach Ronald Spess, chairman of the Board of Education's Buildings and Grounds Committee, for comment on the planned renovations.

The security improvements and the construction of a new West Side middle school comprise the second phase of the bond project, which voters approved in August 2004.

Before the Saginaw High shooting, staffers had to deal with three drive-by shootings on district grounds in little more than a year.

If the new cameras don't deter crime, the machines at least will record it, said Arthur O'Neal, campus security supervisor.

"After a while, people get comfortable," O'Neal said. "People know they're there, they just forget."

The renovations also will give staff members a clearer view of the student parking lots, which will relocate to the side of the schools from the rear, and require carded access at the many doors to each building, O'Neal has said.

The existing lots in the rear of each building also will require district-issued cards for entry.

Linda Janowiak, president of Arthur Hill's Parent Advisory Council, served on the school's security committee and said she is pleased with the plans.

"They have a pretty good system," said Janowiak, of Kochville Township. "It'll be a positive for our building."

School officials are not sure how the construction will affect summer school classes.