Esky school projects to boost security

ESCANABA — Security projects have been the focus of the summer at Escanaba schools. As soon as students were dismissed for summer break, Amy Cseter, director of operations, put a plan into motion — backed by the Escanaba School Board.

“New wiring and installation of cameras began in June,” said Cseter.

The new security system is a district-wide, single sign-on system. Cameras will provide 24/7 real-time surveillance of all buildings and keep an archive of recordings. Locks installed will be tied into a buzz-in system with security cameras.

“We’re able to tie the video surveillance system into the door security system, so new cameras were also placed in vestibules and will be used to verify people before they are buzzed in,” said Escanaba Superintendent Coby Fletcher.

The installation of camera systems started before the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

“The camera system is already up and functioning,” said Fletcher.

Robert Viau, director of technology at Escanaba schools, installed the cameras. This saved the school district money. The school board awarded DS Tech the bid to provide high quality security cameras and switches in mid-April. The type of camera system was chosen because it provides excellent real time and archived digital imaging, according to school officials.

In June, the board picked Automated Comfort Controls to install doors at the high school, Upper Elementary and Lemmer Elementary schools. New door locks and controls were ordered in July and installation is planned in August.

All this has been made possible by the Michigan State Police (MSP). The MSP awarded over 200 schools grants in March, Escanaba received one in the amount of $110,368, supporting school safety initiatives through the 2019 Competitive School Safety Grant Program. The grant is for improving safety and security at schools by purchasing technology and equipment. Work must be completed by June 1, 2020, a stipulation of the grant.

“Funding for the new district wide video surveillance system came from a MSP school safety grant,” Fletcher said. “Funds from the sale of Wells Elementary are being used to secure doors at the Upper Elementary, high school, and the glass door that leads from the vestibule into the front office at Lemmer.”

Work began on the doors this summer. They hope to have most doors finished by the start of the school year.

“It is taking longer than anticipated because the fire inspector recently notified us the same locking mechanism that was approved for other buildings in the past will no longer be approved,” said Fletcher. “Our original plan involved maglocks and we now have to move to electronic strike plates, which are more expensive and will take us longer to install.”

This change will have an affect on the entire front vestibule at the high school. Some of the project will have to be redone, which will involve replacing the interior glass doors because it will not work with electronic strike plates.

“Because of the amount of equipment and labor involved, this will have to be done later in the year,” noted Fletcher.

Work is not being done at the Webster Kindergarten Center or Soo Hill Elementary because both schools already have secure entrances. An active buzzer system will be in place at the Upper Elementary, the west high school entrance, and the front high school entrance will eventually have a secure vestibule where people will wait to be buzzed in.

“As far as changes go, we have greatly expanded the number of cameras, so there are very few places people can go on district property without leaving a visual record,” said Fletcher.