IW Supervisors OK fund transfer for school security

Published 1:31 pm Saturday, March 24, 2018

Last Thursday, Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a request by Isle of Wight County Schools to re-appropriate approximately $820,000 in funds, which the school division recently saved on its roof replacement projects, and to reallocate that money for the division’s plans to improve school security.

The funds will go toward the purchase of $846,944 in security equipment, including a one-button emergency communications system for all schools, upgrades to schools’ intrusion detection systems, expanding the use of ID badge-keyed door locks, adding high definition interior and exterior security cameras and equipping doors with Nightlock barricade systems. The school board approved the new security measures during its March 8 meeting in response to the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Mark Mabey, the division’s executive director of administration and operations, explained the security measures the division was proposing to the supervisors by showing them the same presentation he had made to the school board last week. Mabey explained that the one-button emergency communications system would not be a physical button, but rather could take the form of a web page or smartphone app. The activation of the system, he said, would instantly alert police, fire departments and school administrators all at the same time through an automated process.

As for the ID badge-keyed door locks, Mabey said that this would involve modifying the existing badge swipe systems at the division’s high schools and middle schools so that students as well as staff would be able to open doors using their school ID cards. This would also involve purchasing additional badge swipe units to secure the newly constructed career and technical education facilities located in outbuildings. This way, all doors could remain locked at all times and those who needed access would have a badge, he said.

The Nightlock barricade, Mabey said, was a device that a teacher could drop into place to secure the classroom door. He explained that the division hoped to install these devices on every classroom door as well as gyms and anywhere else students might be trapped during an incident. Law enforcement would be able to bypass the system, he added, but aside from that, it would be virtually impossible for anyone to break in.

After hearing the division’s request, Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice proposed returning the roughly $820,000 in savings to the general fund, earmarking them to be used for school safety and creating a task force composed of representatives from the school division, the Board of Supervisors and first responder agencies to study the matter and ensure there is no duplication of effort between the various organizations. However, Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree disagreed that further study was needed.

“A year ago, they had this done,” he said of the division’s security study. “So instead of them coming to us after Florida, that’s already been done. It seems to me they’ve already done their homework and have found a way to pay for it, and time is of the essence.”

Newport District Supervisor William McCarty agreed that having a task force to study security not just for the school division but also the entire county was a good idea, but he objected to tying the division’s funding request to its creation.

“The stormwater task force we just created, they waited 30 days before even voting on their bylaws,” McCarty said. “If we tie this funding to a task force, God forbid something happened in our county and we added another bureaucratic level. This entire thing could be held up.”

Ultimately the board approved the creation of the task force and named Carrsville District Supervisor Don Rosie as the board’s representative to the body but did so in a separate motion from the one in which they granted the division’s request for funding.