Lockport, N.Y., Schools Look to Update Security

Feb. 8--LOCKPORT -- With the Lockport School District security systems getting old and outmoded, the School Board on Wednesday discussed the possibility of financing a project that would improve and upgrade security equipment at all city schools.

Responding to recommendations from the district's Safety and Facilities committees, Assistant Superintendent Gerald J. Stuitje said it would cost about $1.4 million to do that.

If approved by the board by March 30, the project would provide district schools a new security camera system; a new intercom-camera system at the main entrances of each school building; new and improved lighting in school parking lots; and the installation of proximity readers and the coded passes that would allow administrators, teachers and non-instructional staff members to unlock the doors at designated staff entrances of the school by flashing the pass near the reader.

Stuitje said the project would not have an impact on property taxes because the district could use some of $1.6 million in state Expanding Our Children's Education and Learning money it has coming or use potential grants to cover the $200,000 local cost for the project.

The district would have to borrow the rest of the money but would be reimbursed for the cost with money from the state Education Department, which would pay for 85 percent of the project.

It would require a public referendum to approve the project during the May school budget and board elections in order for the district to borrow the money to pay for the work. To do that, Stuitje said, the board would have to decide whether to go ahead with the project in March.

"We need to replace our failing security camera system. Our failure rate has been huge," said Stuitje, who noted the cameras often don't work and have to be either repaired or replaced. "We are constantly replacing cameras," he said.

He said the old system is antiquated, being 10 to 12 years old. He said the current system isn't even digital, whereas the new system would be.

He said the project calls for the installation of 272 new security cameras.

As for the proposed intercom system, Stuitje said that would require visitors to the school to push a button to alert the office they are at the door. He said an office worker can then screen visitors by speaking with them through the intercom system and seeing them through a security camera before deciding whether to buzz the lock to let them inside.

"They also want the outdoor lighting to be improved to make our parking lots safer. There are some areas that have been identified as quite dark, and they just want to put up more additional lighting to make it more secure and safe" for people who come to the schools at night, Stuitje said.

The board appeared to like the proposal, but members indicated they would have to review it before voting to approve the project.

The board also looked at the possibility of having a police officer stationed in Lockport High School and some of its other schools as a school resource officer like they do in the Barker, Newfane, Niagara Falls and Starpoint school districts.

The board is reviewing the idea and had two state troopers -- Jill Pezzino, who works in the Barker School District, and John Campanella, who did it there for three years -- describe the program and tell why it's useful.

Several School Board members said they had a lot of questions about the resource officer idea before they could make a decision on the program.

The board may vote to apply for a federal grant to fund the resource officer position when it meets Wednesday and then continue to review the proposal. The grant application must be filed by Nov. 20 if the district is to be considered for the grant. If the board decided to go with the program and got the grant, a Lockport police officer would be assigned to work in the schools.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Buffalo News, N.Y. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.