Cameras and cash in store for MVRHS students
Video surveillance and possibly an automated teller machine (ATM) are two changes on the horizon at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) for the new school year.
Wiring is being installed at MVRHS in preparation for phasing in a system of digital video security cameras in the hallways and at two entrances this school year. The wiring is the first step in the process, with the purchase and installation of cameras and Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) to follow.
"The purpose of the cameras is to provide safety, security, and protection for our students, equipment, and facility," explained Assistant Principal Anne Lemenager.
The cameras will not be monitored. Instead, footage will be stored on digital video recorders. "If an incident occurs, this will give us a data base to go back and review," Ms. Lemenager said. "We will only use this information when something happens that requires it."
The plans to install the cameras have been in the works for two years, Ms. Lemenager said, and were discussed last August at an MVRHS school committee meeting before the start of the 2005-2006 school year. Funds for the security camera system will be drawn from the school's excess and deficiency fund.
Ms. Lemenager, who oversees the school building's maintenance and improvements, said the project will be done in phases. "The number of cameras will depend on what we can afford. We're trying to cover our key areas without hitting any privacy issues," she said.
There are several factors to consider in setting up a system, Ms. Lemenager explained, including camera angles, lighting, power access, motion-activation versus continuous monitoring, and data storage.
Launching the project took time, starting with obtaining quotes for the security camera system from three companies. Ms. Lemenager also consulted with Woody Filley, MVRHS Technology Director, on installation questions and the possibility of his department's installing the cameras, and the best coverage areas.
"We didn't want to rush into it. We want to do it the right way, and have it be something that is useful for us," Ms. Lemenager said.
Last spring, they tested a wireless system in the school, which would have offered the advantage of remote access. Unfortunately, the large amount of concrete in the school building blocked the signals. The picture quality was good but intermittent, and it would have required about 30 receivers in the building to work, Ms. Lemenager said. That narrowed the choice to the cameras and DVRs.
In the meantime, "The price of copper and wiring has quadrupled in a year, and the price of the DVRs we need is more expensive than we anticipated, so we are looking at piecing the system together," Ms. Lemenager said.
The DVRs cost about $5,000 apiece. The school has old computer monitors that can be used to view the footage, she said, which will save money. Although two of the companies who bid on the security system included the cost of wiring, Ms. Lemenager said the high school saved money by subcontracting the wiring job out.
The school committee's policy in the MVRHS Student Handbook under "Procedures and Information" states that "...video surveillance may be used to ensure the safety and security of the school and school busses." Students and parents will be fully informed about how and when surveillance is utilized in the school, the handbook also states.
ATM proposed for students
Last week, Principal Margaret (Peg) Regan told the MVRHS school committee about a proposal from Dukes County Savings Bank to place an automated teller machine (ATM) in the school building.
After discussion, Ms. Regan and the school committee agreed to give the proposal careful consideration before making a decision.
"We are going to survey students and parents, and bring the idea to the School Council," Ms. Regan said this week. "We want to evaluate the impact of having an ATM in the school, the positives and the negatives."
In addition to the survey, Ms. Regan plans to talk with administrators at other schools that have ATM's to see how they are working out. Some schools even offer full banking services, she said, with training available for students.
"We also want to find out if there are any other banks on the Island interested in doing this kind of thing," Ms. Regan said. "We want to make sure we open it to the community."