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USC beefing up its security
June 10, 2018

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The increase in active school shooters across the United States has put many schools on high alert and searching for proactive solutions for student and school safety. Conversations and actions in schools across the nation to improve their school's security have been a hot topic.

And one of Faribault County's school districts is taking proper precautions in their school as well.

The United South Central School Board met during a special meeting on June 5, to discuss and approve of a number of security updates to the school.

The School Board was without the input of Tom Legred and Mike Schrader, but continued with their quorum to discuss the approval of an emergency lock down system, a security camera replacement server, and the purchase of supplies for classroom security kits.

USC had spent some time during the past school year to train all of their staff members in active shooter response training known as ALICE, an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. As continued training and security measures continue, USC's Board discussed the importance of keeping up to date on security systems and measures.

To drive the importance of this issue home for members of the School Board, USC School Resource Officer Ryan Murphy was also present to answer questions and discuss the importance of the school improvements on the agenda.

The board first considered the approval of a Hawk Alarm brand emergency lockdown system, out of Mapleton. The estimated cost for the additions to their already-in-place security system included three lockdown buttons which would be placed throughout the school.

"These lockdown buttons would not only automatically lock down all of our exterior doors and activate emergency strobe lights, they would also work concurrently with our system we already have in place," informed Superintendent Keith Fleming.

The total cost of the parts, supplies, and labor to install four exterior, and 29 interior lockdown horns and strobes as well as the three pull stations came to the tune of $16,330.70. Ideally, the board would use up to $10,000 in grant money to upgrade their system, and use funds from the capital fund to make up for the rest of the amount. The board approved the purchase for updates unanimously.

They also approved an additional $18,793.25 for a security camera replacement server from Bevcomm, which included three camera licenses varying in price from $300.18 to $736.19.

"The cameras that we do have are limited in their abilities. Not because of the camera, but because of our current server," stated Officer Murphy to the Board. "With this upgrade, we will have a greater ability to focus and zoom in on any suspicious activity. These cameras have been used by Blue Earth Area and while talking with their school resource officer, we found they have had a good response from them."

The camera's server, which Murphy said was the real issue with clarity of the cameras already in place, will be upgraded to allow a higher resolution of photo. Murphy also mentioned to the board that there was a limited number of cameras in the parking lot, and no cameras on the school's playground or in the school's weight room.

"Perhaps, in the future, we can look into having a few additional cameras in these areas," said Murphy.

The school's resource officer also stated the camera's server and control station would be in its own room to allow for maximum safety and limited access for the cameras if a situation were to arise.

"Are these upgrade sufficient for the future? I mean, technology has progressed so quickly, will this big of an investment keep us up to date for the next five to 10 years?" asked School Board member Jon Feist.

"Yes, this should be a sufficient enough upgrade for at least the next five years," said Fleming. "There is always the capacity to grow from this point, but I think this is a great start."

"Usually, with these systems, we would do an upgrade every five or so years," echoed Officer Murphy. "We would definitely make the most of these camera licenses and server occupancy."

With that, Feist made the official motion to approve the licensing bundle, while the rest of the present school board members echoed the approval.

Finally, the School Board decided to spend an additional $3,000 on the purchase of supplies for classroom security kits. Murphy stated these kits would include a few tools that would assist in the case of an active shooter or school intruder, one tool of which is a simple strap to assist in the barricading of classroom doors to keep out intruders.

"Each kit would include one of these straps, as well as a bar that can easily fit within the door frame of the door to keep out intruders," said Murphy. "These tools, along with a few other items per classroom could really help us in an emergency situation without breaking any fire codes or laws put in place by the state of Minnesota."

Superintendent Fleming suggested an assessment be done within the school year to see if the emergency kits are of use, need upgrading, or need to be reassessed altogether.

"We are always exploring and trying to improve the safety of our students and staff members," said Murphy.

School Board Chair Dale Stevermer put the motion for the emergency kits in place, with a second from Feist. The board approved the decision.

In their special meeting, the School Board also:

Approved the resale of kindergarten through 4th grade iPads to Diamond Assets, a Wisconsin-based company commonly used by Minnesota Schools, with an estimated return on the devices to be around $20,840.

Authorized the purchase of new iPads for K-4 due to the student iPads no longer accepting iOS updates.

USC's director of technology and digital learning Rita Vondracek stated the 275 Generation 6 iPads would come at a base estimated cost of $80,875, or $275 per device.

Considered and supported the approval of an agreement with RevTrak, an online payment system optional for parents to be able to pay for student fees online. The district would pay a $30 per month hosting fee, with parents chipping in a 3.49 percent fee to use the service.

The board approved the service with a six month trial run to be reassessed at the beginning of 2019.

The next regular USC School?Board meeting is scheduled for June 19, at 7 p.m. in the Community Ed classroom.

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