CMS board approves $19.3 million security plan

CMS board approves $19.3 million security plan

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by APRIL BETHEA / The Charlotte Observer

WCNC.com

Posted on August 26, 2013 at 3:34 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A new identification system for visitors, better equipment to communicate with law enforcement and security cameras on all campuses are part of a $19.3 million plan approved unanimously Tuesday by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board.

The plan also calls for students and staff to carry picture IDs in schools.

CMS officials said they already consider the district to be “very safe,” but the new plan is meant to enhance security already in place. They said it could help reduce crime and theft and deter bullying while making it easier to identify and manage people who enter school buildings.

Superintendent Heath Morrison said the goal is to have CMS be proactive, instead of reactive, to potential safety threats. “We hope we are preparing for things that we will never actually have to be ready for,” he said.

This is the second time in a month that the school board has voted on a security plan. In February, the board agreed to ask county commissioners for $33.7 million to pay for safety upgrades that included chain-link fences around schools.

But the plan was revised – and the fences removed – after the district learned the larger proposal could delay other construction projects.

The new proposal calls for $19.3 million for equipment, installation and planning. CMS also estimated it will cost nearly $1.2 million each year to cover ongoing maintenance and other recurring expenses.

County commissioners must give final approval to money for security upgrades. The district plans to present the new plan to the county board in mid-April. Morrison said the current plan wouldn’t cause other projects to be delayed.

The biggest chunk of money in the security plan, about $12 million, would go toward security cameras.

CMS already has about 2,500 cameras across the district, including at high schools and administrative sites. The new plan would increase that number to 6,500, including at elementary and middle schools.

The cameras would be monitored by staff at a central security office. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police also would have access to the cameras.

The proposed ID system for visitors would expand other initiatives already in place at many schools. All visitors would enter through designated areas. They would have to sign in at a computer that would check, among other things, whether the person appears on the national sex offenders registry or on a CMS “ban list.”

Morrison said the district isn’t trying to deter parents and guardians, volunteers and other people who need to be at schools. But he acknowledged the new system would take them a few minutes longer to enter schools.

“We think that those few minutes are absolutely worth it to ensure the safety of our students and staff,” he said.

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