Kyrene schools beef up security - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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Kyrene schools beef up security

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Posted: Sunday, August 15, 2010 8:00 am

Kyrene School District is in the midst of installing and implementing a state-of-the-art security system at every district school.

As one district administrator put it, "We are taking safety and security very seriously."

Video surveillance is one part in a three-pronged system, along with keyless entry to school buildings and security monitoring. The system is in place at 10 Kyrene schools thus far.

Cameras are being installed on every campus, which are recording all day every day and monitored by a third-party security company.

Access is limited to the principal and vice principal of the schools, a team at the Kyrene district, and an employee at Amer-X, the Scottsdale-based security company who installed the cameras.

The security monitoring system is quite advanced. Users can zoom in or out and rotate the camera left and right, all in high definition. Video can also be recalled from up to a year before.

The current system was first installed at Kyrene de la Colina in 2008 after being approved in 2005. Kelvin Inouye, principal at Colina, said the integration of his 49-camera system was seamless and it is now a part of his everyday routine.

"When I get to school in the morning, I can turn on the program and in 90 seconds I can see the entire outside campus," he said. "So if I see trash, or a fallen tree branch or something, I know exactly where it is and can remove it."

After the district received funding, provided by a voter initiative approved in 2005, they worked closely with Amer-X developing a program that would provide the highest level of security.

Karin Smith, chief financial officer at Kyrene, said a team of district administrators, along with Amer-X, would get together every week to review designs and blueprints to be able to make each school's system unique. They would then go to that school's officials to seek their input.

"It is a very comprehensive program," Smith said. "It's important to us because there's a community that trusts us and puts their children in our hands. People feel like their campus is more secure."

Cameras on Kyrene buses were already in place, but now there is 24-hour surveillance on parking lots, playgrounds and all doors leading into the school.

Inouye said there has been several, light-hearted, cases involving students caught on camera doing something they probably were not supposed to be doing.

"It's hard for them to argue when they see themselves right there, in video," he said. "Most will just come clean right there."

While the system works as a deterrent against students, it is in place, Smith said, to protect against the bigger threats like theft, vandalism and campus intruders.

"We have a crisis team that, when something happens, they are always ready," she said. "If I hear something is happening on a particular campus, I can bring up that security footage (at the district office) right away."

But even when all schools have their system in place, Smith said, the job is never done.

"We will always be looking to improve our security," she said.

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