FORT WORTH — Last in an ongoing series about Tuesday’s Fort Worth school bond election.External buzzers, cameras and new entryways are part of a $12.1 million security initiative included in the Fort Worth school district bond program.“When you are standing outside, trying to get in, we can actually see you” with the proposed improvements, said Superintendent Walter Dansby.The buzzer approach is an added layer of surveillance that some school leaders say is a must after last year’s attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School.Twenty students and six adults were killed in a shooting spree in December in Newtown, Conn. Since then, communities have been grappling with how to better protect schools.Security upgrades are included in Proposition 1, one of three propositions that voters will decide on Tuesday. Totaling $386.6 million, Proposition 1 is a sweeping 11-point proposal that has been described as “the essentials” by district leaders.Security dollars obtained through the bond program would pay for added cameras inside and outside campuses, school officials said. These cameras will tie into the current system to eliminate blind spots. The district also wants to improve the capability of the network and servers to be able to monitor the additional cameras.Art Cavazos, chief of operations for the school district, said the district already has begun locking more campus doors, adding cameras and increasing campus monitoring, but the bond program will help create new layers of protection.“What we hope to do is to be able to duplicate these layers and make it more difficult for them to be penetrated without being noticed,” Cavazos said.“What we have inside are our students, our most valued asset,” Cavazos said.Campus visitors will enter through vestibules — or redesigned entryways — that will allow for proper check in at schools, Dansby said.“If you are coming in during the morning, then the doors are open and they are checking everybody who comes through and making sure everything is right,” Dansby said. “After school starts, that door closes. The only way you can come into the building is through the main office, be recognized, get a pass and move out into the main building.”Dansby said the changes should be seamless to parent volunteers.“They will be checked the way they always have,” Dansby said. “We are talking about the physical structure. We are talking about a building and how they enter the building.”The upgrades will also complement the district’s work to develop hallway paths that students will use to move through buildings, Cavazos said. Students with badges can use these paths, while people without badges will have to come through the main entrance, he said.Additionally, the district wants to enhance its communications system by expanding the one used for bus transportation operations, Cavazos said.Cavazos said teachers and campus personnel would use hand radios to communicate directly with the security office. Currently, the plans would include six or seven radios per campus at a total of about $25,000.Money for the radios would come out of a technology portion of the bond package, Dansby said. The bond includes $102.5 million earmarked for technology needs and upgrades.The investment in security also aims to boost existing efforts, including campus monitors, police officers who patrols schools and Code Blue volunteers.Volunteers from Code Blue: Citizens on Patrol use bikes, cars or golf carts to patrol the perimeter of campuses during school hours.“We are still going to need people. We are going to need eyes and ears. We are going to need communication,” Cavazos said.Dansby said this human element is crucial to any security plan.“If we see something, let somebody know,” Dansby said.
Diane Smith, 817-390-7675 Twitter: @dianeasmith1