RANDOLPH — With the safety of Randolph Central School students and staff foremost in mind, the board of education on March 7 approved preliminary plans for high-tech security upgrades as part of the second aspect of the Smart Schools Bond Act Project.

“The stipulations of the bond act limit the use of these funds,” said Superintendent Kaine Kelly. “We felt that an investment in high-tech security was the best choice we had available back almost a year ago when these decisions were being made. It will give us the most longevity for our investment and couldn’t be more timely, based on the current environment.”

Kelly said the technology upgrade will include new servers, wireless internet and increased high-speed WiFi. They plan to replace 98 outdated, existing cameras and add 201 cameras (120 interior and 81 exterior). A total of 299 high-definition cameras will be included in the system. He said many cameras have a 180- and 360-degree coverage area to maximize the views from a single camera device. All corridors and stair towers, exterior doors (interior view and exterior view), gymnasiums and auditorium, as well as all parking lots, will be covered.

In addition, the high-tech security will include License Plate Reader (LPR) cameras at both driveway entrances to allow for tagging of license plates from national registration databases.

According to Kelly, every exterior door will be covered with card readers, including the bus garage, along with sensors to provide notification of doors being held open. He said there will be “remote lockdown” of all exterior doors through the use of a cell phone app, so administrative team members will be able to lockdown the entire perimeter of the district. There will also be a Lockdown Visual Notification System in large group assembly and high ambient noise areas.

“Safety is clearly our number one priority, and I don’t buy into the idea that an incident is not going to happen here,” he said. “There are tons of schools in the region where it has happened, so we are not going to rest on an idea that we don’t have to worry about (it) because we’re Randolph.”

The district also continues to focus on its students’ social, emotional and mental well-being. Kelly said social worker Alyssa McCutcheon has been added and will work in conjunction with School Resource Officer Kale Luce, a deputy with the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office. According to Kelly, Luce is in uniform and armed, but he’s more of a counselor. He said those services are paid for by a set-aside within Foundation Aid for Community Schools programs.

According to the New York State Education Department (NYSED), the Smart Schools Bond Act (SSBA) was passed in the 2014-15 Enacted Budget and approved by voters in a statewide referendum held during the 2014 election. The SSBA authorized the issuance of $2 billion of general obligation bonds to finance improved educational technology and infrastructure to improve learning and opportunity for students throughout the state.

“Each school got an allocation out of the $2 billion, and Randolph’s portion was $1.07 million. With that, we’re doing about $500,000 of infrastructure and $500,000 of high-tech security,” he said. “This is 100 percent bonded, so every cent we spend on this is coming directly from the bond put out by New York state. It’s not an expenditure of Randolph taxpayer money; it has zero tax implications and it’s no different than a grant.”

Kelly said the first part is currently being approved and the the security aspect has been submitted for approval. He said work is expected to begin this summer and will be performed concurrently with the district’s building project. The hope is to have both phases of the project done by the beginning of the school year.

“This project will put us on the cutting-edge of high-tech security locally for public schools. It also puts us in a position to take our security to the next level, should funding for school security become available,” he said. “Soon, our administrative team and our board of education will be having conversations around exactly what that will look like. The best approach to security varies from location to location. It is important we identify which approach is the best for our students, staff and community.”

For more details, visit NYSED online at p12.nysed.gov, email smartschools@nysed.gov or call the Office of Educational Management at (518) 474-6541.

(Contact reporter Deb Everts at salpressdeb@gmail.com.)