YATESVILLE â€” Pittston Area plans to keep a better eye on its schools.
The School Board will install a $265,000, state-of-the-art surveillance system inside and outside all five of the school districtâ€™s buildings.
The high-tech system is part of a $7 million high school renovation project that could begin by next summer, said school district Superintendent Ross Scarantino, Ed.D.
The board will use revenue from 3.5 mills â€” just over $200,000 â€” of the 7.5-mill property tax hike in the 2006-07 district budget toward the new surveillance, said board member Joseph Oliveri, chairman of the security committee.
A mill is a $1 tax on every $1,000 of assessed property value.
The system will include about 60 surveillance cameras, monitors at a control center in the high school and swipe cards for employees.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of (vandalism) damage in the schools, especially in the middle school,â€ Mr. Oliveri said. â€œThis also goes hand-in-hand with our anti-bullying policy.â€
The cameras would scan hallways and outside the schools, including the bus ports.
The cameras, which will have night vision, would not only detect and record vandalism at the schools after hours, they could prevent a Columbine-type incident in the schools, said Mr. Oliveri, referring to the 1999 incident at Columbine High School in Colorado, in which two students shot and killed a teacher and 14 students, including themselves, and wounded 24 others.
â€œFrom the high school, we will be able to watch every school,â€ he said.
Each school has one or two security guards, but if a serious incident is taking place, those monitoring the cameras automatically contact police, other security, the chief of security and the superintendent.
While the cameras wonâ€™t be monitored around the clock, security can monitor the recorded tapes from overnight.
Most damage occurs after hours, Mr. Oliveri said.
Mr. Oliveri is hoping the district can obtain grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
The School Board will spread the cost of the new system and renovations over three years, with 3-mill increases in the second and third year. The district will likely float a bond, as well. District officials also are expecting state reimbursement for at least part of the project, Dr. Scarantino said.
Â©The Times-Tribune 2006