0

Piloted school security system to expand over years

If the silent alarm is sounded through a teacher classroom, a device in the front office will go off. Law enforcement authorities also will be notified.

If the silent alarm is sounded through a teacher classroom, a device in the front office will go off. Law enforcement authorities also will be notified.

photo

Newton High School math teacher Laramy Wells uses one of the 20 classrooms at the school that is piloting the Viewpath S.A.F.E. camera, audio and silent alarm system this school year. The program allows him to view classroom video through two cameras on his computer. He also wears a device around his neck that enhances his voice and also houses a silent alarm. Staff Photos: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

COVINGTON -- A school security system that is being piloted in a few Newton County schools this year is expected to expand over the next few years.

This school year, Newton High School piloted a Viewpath S.A.F.E. camera, audio and silent alarm system in 20 classrooms. Veterans Memorial Middle School also is piloting the system in two of its classrooms, and the Newton College & Career Academy has it in one of its classes.

The recently passed education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, is expected to put the system in every school classroom for a cost of nearly $4 million. The new tax, which is a continuation of the current education SPLOST, will not begin until January 2015.

However, more schools may get the system next year.

Already, the Newton County Board of Education approved a ViewPath system for the replacement Newton High School, which will open in the fall. It will provide for classroom and hallway cameras. The system is expected to cost about $500,000, which will be paid for out of capital funds.

"It's an extraordinary important system in this day and age," said Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews, adding that an uncle of a child killed in the Newtown, Ct., school shooting called to inquire of the system, and other school systems are asking to view it. "It gives us the ability to look into any classroom ... and monitor in real time. It's really, really important to many of us."

School officials already have reported that the system is improving student behavior and increasing academic rigor through reduced classroom disruptions, providing for online learning and increasing teacher effectiveness.

"It makes students behave because they feel like somebody is watching," said Jeremiah Liscum, a senior at Newton High School.

Mathews also says it provides multiple teaching tools and enhancements, including distance learning or coaching, lessons for homebound or absent students, classroom remediation, emergency notifications, after-hours motion sensing and enhanced audio. It also can be used as a document camera, and the system comes with computer software to provide educator access from any school system computer.

The system includes two classroom cameras and a hand-held microphone for students to use in class, while the teacher wears a device that amplifies their voices and also houses a silent alarm that alerts the front office and law enforcement. As soon as an alarm sounds, the video kicks in to record any evidence.

"This system has multiple uses, and that's why we feel so strongly about it," Mathews said.

Later this month, the school system plans to bring an item to the school board regarding the purchase of the system for each school.

"It is our intent to have ViewPath installed in as many schools as possible next school year as capital funds are made available either in existing budgets, which can be replenished by recently voted upon future e-SPLOST dollars, or through e-SPLOST funds when they become available in 2015 per the recent election," Mathews wrote in his End-of-Month notes released Thursday.

Details are expected to be made available at the school board's work session, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 9 in the board room at the Newton County BOE building at 2109 Newton Drive NE in Covington. The board is expected to vote on the item during its monthly meeting on April 16.