Riverhead School Board approves $100K for new security features

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Director of Facilities Mark Finnerty discusses new security features being added to  Riverhead schools.
RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Director of Facilities Mark Finnerty discusses new security features being added to Riverhead schools.

Riverhead Board of Education members voted unanimously at a special meeting Wednesday to use just over $100,000 from existing reserve funds to implement new districtwide security measures.

The new initiatives include purchasing new or upgraded security cameras, digital recorders, shatter-resistant film for glass windows, the addition of “Smart Key” technology and the creation of a bigger security office with large-screen video monitoring. The district has already updated their burglar panels, allowing them to put silent alarms in some offices.

“No matter what, you want your kids to be safe,” Superintendent Nancy Carney said. “We’ve put a lot in place, but we have a lot to work on.”

“We’re in a new era and a new world and we all know that,” she said. “These are very important conversations.”

The board unanimously rejected a second proposed option to raise the tax levy from 3.82 to 3.94 percent to cover the costs. Ms. Carney said dipping into reserves will not pose a problem for the district.

“Our reserves are in good shape because of very careful oversight of what we’re doing,” she said. “This is an option we feel very comfortable with.”

At Riverhead Middle School, a software program called Project Safeguard will be installed. The technology, which costs $22,000 and has already been purchased for Riverhead High School and will be implemented there by the end of the month, allows administrators to enhance current remote monitoring by producing a digital map of school grounds that marks key locations in the building — including areas with cameras, fire extinguishers and boilers —  with a colored icon.

“It’s very usable,” director of facilities Mark Finnerty said of Project Safeguard. “If there was an incident in the art room, the fire department would be able to pull this [program] up on their laptops and then give directions to their squad as to what door to enter.”

Mr. Finnerty said there are currently about 145 security cameras at Riverhead High School, 45 at Riverhead Middle School and about 25 at each elementary school. Of the cameras at the high school, Mr. Finnerty said, 100 of them were purchased in 2005. He said it would cost $22,500 to purchase new or upgraded cameras.

The measures, Ms. Carney said, are a good start, but she emphasized the importance of creating a culture of security in the district.

“I think it’s important to educate every single person,” she said. “Every one in the district can call an emergency. The more eyes … the better.”

Board trustee Thomas Carson agreed.

“This is not a one-shot deal,” he said of the approved purchases. “This is forever going on for the rest of our lives.”

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