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Security, budget discussed at Riverhead BOE meeting

The Riverhead Central School District plans to improve the safety and accuracy of student transportation next year by installing security cameras and GPS monitoring in each of the district’s buses. 

Each large bus will receive two security cameras, at a cost of $121,400 total for all buses. Small buses will get one camera, for a total of $51,200. The GPS system — which will monitor provide the real-time location of each bus, as well the turn signal usage and acceleration and deceleration of the vehicle — is estimated to cost $46,650.

The cameras and GPS units are included in the 2018-19 budget, which is expected to remain under its .91 percent tax cap, according to a presentation at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting. The tentative budget also includes adding multiple positions throughout the district, including English, math, social studies and science teachers at the high school, ENL teachers at Pulaski Street and Riley Avenue schools, a Spanish teacher at the middle school and an FTE reading teacher at Roanoke, deputy superintendent Sam Schneider said Tuesday.

Additional teachers are needed due to increased enrollment, ENL needs and the need for more targeted instruction for students, Mr. Schneider said.

Other budgetary increases stem from an rise in the number of students who live in the Riverhead district but attend the Charter School. The district is required to pay tuition to the charter school for each of those students.

Enrollment in grades K-8 at the charter school enrollment has grown from 226 students in 2015-16 to 307 students this year. Mr. Schneider is projecting that 351 students will attend the charter school next year, necessitating just under $6 million in tuition payments.

Lastly, the district is looking to increase its nearly $1.4 million security budget by 4 percent next school year with the addition of new radios for all the guards, updating 30 old cameras, adding 20 new cameras and adding several new radio repeaters so guards can communicate between buildings.

The district also plans to offer more training opportunities for security staff.

One change that didn’t sit well with some board members — given the recent Florida school shooting — is that despite an larger overall security budget, the cost of security personnel is projected to drop by about $17,000 next year.

By contrast, Newsday reported Wednesday that the Miller Place School District has already hired armed guards for four of its buildings, including the high school.

Mr. Schneider agreed it “wasn’t a time for a decrease in security personnel,” and said he’d double check the numbers and report back to the board. He also noted that the district is exploring the creation of “mantraps” at all district schools.

A mantrap, which currently exists at the high school, forces guests to be buzzed into the building, where they wait in a small area while their ID is scanned by a security guard. If they pass this security clearances they are buzzed through a second door and can enter the school building.

“The issue of security is priceless,” board member Therese Zuhoski said. “The value of the lives of our staff and our kids is priceless … it’s imperative we get ahead of the issue.”

Parents also spoke on security issues at Tuesday’s meeting, which began with a moment of silence for the victims of the Feb. 14 Parkland attack.

Riverhead resident Josh Berezny said the school had a similar conversation two years ago and he hadn’t seen any progress.

Resident Elizabeth Silva inquired about the possibility of installing metal detectors in the district and urged the board to take steps to keep students safe from gun violence.

Other residents asked about security during sporting events on the road, the frequency of active school shooter drills and whether parents are notified when such drills are set to occur.

Allyson Matwey of Wading River brought up the Know the Signs program, created by parents of children lost in the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

“It’s all about being proactive and addressing it with the kids that are a threat,” she said. “They will come into the schools free of charge and talk to the administration and the kids to put a program in place to basically know the signs and know how to deal with it before that person tries to kill themselves or others.”

Ms. Matwey passed the information along to Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez, who said she shared it with administrators and plans to discuss it — as well as a similar program connected to Columbine, plans for student walk-out demonstrations and other security concerns — at a meeting with district principals Friday.

CORRECTION: The total cost of the security cameras for large buses is $121,400. An earlier version incorrectly stated the cost was per bus.

Photo caption: Riverhead deputy superintendent Sam Schneider discusses budgeting for additional teachers during Tuesday’s school board meeting. (Credit: Nicole Smith) 

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