Schools receive security upgrade

PARKERSBURG – A nearly $21,000 grant for a digital camera system is the first step in a district-wide plan to upgrade security at Wood County schools.

Don Brown, safety coordinator for Wood County Schools, said the district in April was awarded $20,819 in equipment and software by VideoInsight, a developer of IP video surveillance software located in Houston, Texas. The grant, which was announced in April, included eight interior and eight exterior cameras, a digital video encoder, and software to integrate existing cameras with the new system.

The company also will provide training and installer BD&E (Bank Design & Equipment) in Waynesboro, W.Va., has offered to make an in-kind contribution of labor and setup for Wood County Schools.

Brown said Parkersburg High School, which already has one of the most modern camera systems in the district, will be online with the new system by the end of summer.

He also expects McKinley Elementary School and the Wood County Technical Centers will have their systems upgraded and online in June. One additional school, which has not yet been selected. will be brought on to the new system as well.

Brown said camera systems vary wildly between schools and most have been installed without any kind of overall plan for the district.

“One of the problems we’ve seen is each of the schools may have their own system, their own brand of cameras and digital recorders,” Brown said. “They all use different kinds of software, so if an administrator moves between schools, they have to be trained on the new security system. If there is something wrong, those pieces of hardware have to be sent away (to the various manufacturers) for repair.”

With the new video encoder, Brown said, older analog cameras can be converted to work with the new digital system, meaning they can still make use of most existing hardware. The new system will allow video to be recorded to servers which can be maintained and repaired by the district’s own technicians.

“It’s this ease of maintenance that was one of the selling points of this system,” he said. “Plus, I can probably buy four servers at the price of one NVR (Network Video Recorder).”

Brown said the central system also will allow Wood County Schools officials to remotely view all of the cameras covered by the system, including maps of schools which allow them to locate and switch between cameras. Eventually Wood County 911 and potentially first responders will be able to access school camera systems remotely, allowing them to better respond to a crisis within a school.

There is some expense in converting schools to the new system. In most cases the schools themselves will have to pay for some of the basic support hardware, such as wiring and servers. Some schools lack the proper number of cameras and need additional units purchased. Also, depending on the brand of camera, there may be additional software licenses necessary, he said.

Brown said it could take the school system 10-15 years to bring all of Wood County’s 27 schools and half-dozen facilities on line with the new digital system. Brown said he plans to reach out to area businesses and community groups to sponsor schools, much like the district has done in the past with classroom technologies.

“Even though we’ve seen more issues across the nation in recent years, the federal dollars for safety and security have decreased over the years,” he said. “The cameras are just part of the safety plan, but they are a vital part for the safety of the schools.

“We’re going to be asking area businesses to help support their community schools and help make them safer for everyone.”