2019-01-10 / Front Page

Middletown High to Add Interior Cameras

By Christopher Allen

Middletown High will be upgrading its security system in the coming months, with cameras to be installed inside the school for the first time to monitor activity in high traffic areas. The new technology will augment the current security, which now monitors only the front entrance.

The School Committee awarded a bid for $82,000 during its Dec. 20 meeting to Johnston-based Dane Tech, LLC for the purchase and installation of 61 cameras, with 27 going to the high school. The remaining cameras will be dispersed to the other three town schools, but will only monitor the outside grounds and entrances.

The funding was approved by the Town Council in last year’s budget and will come from the town’s Capital Improvement Plan. The district applied for state assistance to help offset costs. A portion of the expenses, around $25,000, will be reimbursed by the state through a grant from the Rhode Island School Building Authority capital fund, which was established in 2016 to help schools expedite high priority improvement projects.

David Fontes, director of Facilities

Management, said that the measures are part of a wider initiative to increase security. During the most recent assessment of school facilities, which was conducted in conjunction with the police and fire departments, it was determined there was a gap in the district's security. Per state law, school district assessments are to be conducted once every three years, although Middletown conducts them annually.

“[The concern was for] areas where it would be a deterrent,” said Fontes, who cited hallway intersections and the cafeteria as prime places were cameras would be necessary.

He added that the plan was adequate for the needs of the school. “Some districts have cameras all over the place inside,” he said.

The committee also unveiled a new policy governing the use of the system and the protocol regarding the storage and dissemination of collected data. The policy dictates that all students, parents and staff will be notified before the beginning of each school year of the cameras’ existence. Signage advertising the system will also be posted on school grounds. The policy outlines a narrow protocol for district staff in the event that video footage needs to be accessed and analyzed.

“Students or staff identified on security cameras in violation of district policies will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action, in accordance with the disciplinary procedures set forth in the student and staff handbooks,” the policy document states. “Violations of the law may be referred to law enforcement agencies and video evidence may be provided to those agencies by the superintendent of schools.”

The system will not include audio recordings. Video recordings will be saved for 30 days, after which they will be deleted on a rolling basis unless procured for an ongoing investigation.

The cameras will be placed in public gathering spaces, and not in any place where there is a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” such as locker rooms, offices and restrooms.

A portion of the reimbursement funds from the state will be directed toward smaller projects, such as securing the entrance of Forest Avenue Elementary School with an upgraded access-controlled door and a bullet-resistant transaction window similar to those previously installed at Aquidneck Elementary School.

The installation date has not been set.

“We’ll be setting up project meetings and determining schedules,” Fontes said. “We need to get input from the principals as far as what is better for them.”

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