Kettering schools will add dozens of security cameras this winter

Kettering City Schools will spend $110,000 this winter to significantly expand the security camera system at its two middle schools, another project stemming from the facilities levy Kettering residents passed in 2016.

Ken Lackey, director of business services for the school district, said Van Buren Middle School’s camera system will go from four cameras to 28, while the much larger Kettering Middle School will be upgraded from eight cameras to 73.

“As we continue to try to run down and eliminate bullying and those kinds of incidents, this gives us a better ability to go back and track things and see what really happened,” Lackey said.

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Kettering’s school board last month approved a contract with Copp Integrated Systems to do the work, because Copp built the video network that is already in place, according to a board resolution. The new cameras will attach to that network.

Lackey said Kettering Fairmont High School already has a fairly extensive camera system, so the decision was made to focus next on the middle schools. Eventually, the effort could expand to the district’s eight elementary schools, which currently have limited cameras near front doors and playgrounds.

“We worked with both middle school principals on designing the locations, from their knowledge of things that go on at the campuses — areas they’d like to have covered and things they’d like to be able to see,” Lackey said. “These new systems will give coverage to nearly all public areas in each building, inside and out, with the exception of classrooms and restrooms.”

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High School Principal Tyler Alexander said Fairmont added many cameras in the past five years, including some cameras outside restrooms after the region experienced a series of bomb threats written on bathroom walls. In those cases and others, the cameras can verify the who, where and when, as part of a layered security approach that includes resource officers and security guards.

“To be honest, we don’t have to use the cameras a ton,” Alexander said. “Part of that is the students and folks coming into the building know that we have them, and there are very few areas of the building not covered by cameras.”

Lackey said the cameras have good video quality but do not record audio. No school employee is monitoring them in real time, but if a disturbance is reported somewhere in a school, main office staff can check a camera while others are responding.

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Contractors will start working on wiring at the middle schools over the holiday break. Lackey said because work will be done outside school hours, the project won’t be finished until sometime in the spring.

The cameras are being funded via the 3.4-mill permanent improvement levy that voters approved in March 2016.

“Part of the commitment when we passed the levy was to continue to expand safety and security measures throughout the district,” Lackey said. “This was something that was on the wish list — to expand the camera systems at all schools.”

That levy, which raises $3.96 million per year, has already led to improvements in athletic facilities, paving, bleachers, roofs and the start of the high school auditorium project, according to district spokeswoman Kari Basson.

Lackey said a decision on how to address the aging Barnes building on Far Hills Avenue will be one of the next big issues for that funding.

RELATED: Fairmont’s $10M auditorium project under way

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