BOE talks security, facility upgrades

Published 9:11 am Thursday, February 7, 2013

School security and improving school facilities were topics of discussion at a work session of the Crenshaw County Board of Education on Tuesday night.

Superintendent Randy Wilkes laid out a capital plan and talked about projects that were upcoming and needed at each school in the system.

A number of recent events both locally and nationally have led to an increased dialogue about school safety, and a re-keying of local schools is one project on the agenda.

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Wilkes said the cost would be about $15,000 per school to change to a system with a proprietary key, which means that a copy could not be easily made on standard key-making equipment.

“There would be one master key and then ‘change keys’ in every classroom,” he said. “We would be able to do everything in-house.”

Wilkes said that a door count is being conducted to see how many locks would be required.  He said the count for Highland Home came in at 206, which includes the field house and concession stand, and that the counts for Luverne and Brantley should be finished within a week or two.

There is also the possibility that doors will be replaced on campuses, and there are a number of options available, from standard security doors to electronic locking doors that unlock automatically minutes before the school bell rings and then re-locks minutes after classes have started.

The board also looked at options for increased security cameras on campuses.

“We need to be able to identify everyone that comes on campus,” Wilkes said.

The school system installed 242 cameras for less than $20,000 several years ago, and Wilkes received a number of quotes for adding 32 more high-quality cameras to the system.

“I don’t know what the legislature will do — they might appropriate for security,” Wilkes said.

A number of facility upgrades were also discussed, including the possibility of major work at Highland Home and Brantley.

Neil Hughes with McKee and Associates in Troy was on hand to provide input on potential projects.

One of the major discussions was about a new gym for Brantley as concerns have recently been raised about the capacity of the gym.

Hughes said it would be difficult to renovate the current gym to add more seating because it would mean changing the way the roof is supported and also losing the stage.

“Not saying it can’t be done, but it would be a pretty good undertaking,” he said.

Board members Dr. Charles Tompkins and Troy Hudson said they would rather have a new gym over a new auditorium, since the costs would be similar.

The two also expressed the need for a new facility since the current one is filled to capacity several times per years, such as for basketball games, beauty pageants and graduation.

The cost for the proposed project would be more than $2 million, and board member Steve Sanders expressed concern at spending that kind of money in the current financial environment.

“Do we have the money for it?” he asked.

Wilkes said that money could be borrowed, and that now seems to be the time to make a move.

“Now is the time to invest,” he said. “We’re already seeing costs go up, and it won’t be this low in 12 months.”

Wilkes also pointed out that the money wouldn’t have to be paid back all at once and that the system receives funds from the state that are allocated strictly for the improvement of facilities and infrastructure.

“These are public school funds, and that’s all they can be used for,” Wilkes said. “Nothing could be used for teacher salaries or anything like that.  There’s nothing else you can do with it.”

The board also looked at renovating the front of Highland Home with a design that resembles what the school looked like before the fire in the 1970s.

Plans for extending the school’s driveway were also discussed, citing the safety of students and relieving congestion at the school on Highway 331.

The proposed driveway would include three lanes and would be around 400 feet long.

Several proposals for the project require the removal of trees in front of the school, which is an issue that is being discussed.

The school system has been talking with County Engineer Benjie Sanders about the project.

All three schools should soon be undergoing renovation of bathroom facilities, and the implementation of technology in the classroom was also discussed.

No action was taken on any matter since it was only a work session and not a formal board meeting.