Cameras being installed at Port Townsend schools

Chris Tucker ctucker@ptleader.com
Posted 8/8/17

Cameras are currently being installed at Blue Heron Elementary and will soon be added to the Gael Stuart Building and then Port Townsend High School.

The purpose of the cameras, school officials …

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Cameras being installed at Port Townsend schools

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Cameras are currently being installed at Blue Heron Elementary and will soon be added to the Gael Stuart Building and then Port Townsend High School.

The purpose of the cameras, school officials say, is to improve safety, deter bullying and vandalism and to help investigate any incidents that do occur.

At Blue Heron Elementary on Friday, DD Electrical employee Jeremie Bishop stood atop a ladder as he handled one end of a category 6 networking cable, its wires splayed out in several directions. He was preparing to mount a security camera on an exterior wall of the building.

Nearby, coiled white wiring hung outside some parts of the building.

At the Gael Stuart Building, school superintendent John Polm made a note of some of the camera work being done there. He pointed to debris on a chair inside his office that fell from the ceiling after workers had been pulling cable. Elsewhere, ceiling tiles had been removed to provide access for the work.

“Cameras are generally standard in today’s schools, although controversial,” Polm said. “But we are following through on the 2012 Capital Levy expenditures approved by Port Townsend voters and approved by the governing board.”

The Port Townsend Schools 2012 Capital Levy approved was by voters in February, 2012. Included was rough estimates for several expenditures that total the $4.7 million to be collected over four years. The levy included $66,000 as a rough estimate for installation of security cameras.

“The actual cost ended up quite a bit more,” Polm said. “Although there may be less expensive products on the market, the district is making a long-term investment to meet long-term needs.”

Polm said the increased cost is partly due to the high quality of the cameras but also to pay for contracted workers to install them. The security camera system was not like a consumer-grade video camera that are commonly available at discount stores, he said.

The system is more sophisticated and designed to meet demanding standards in regard to image retention and search ability, as digital recordings are public records, he said.

The system also includes software to manage the videos and also uses a more secure wired network.

‘WIDELY DEPLOYED’

Polm said the system conforms with best practices that is typical of systems widely deployed at Washington public schools, and at comparable cost. A similar camera system is planned as part of the new Salish Coast Elementary.

Polm said the cameras were an “extension of staff eyes and ears to assist in providing safe and secure schools.”

The cameras do not record audio.

A total of 117 security cameras are to be installed at Port Townsend High School (PTHS) and Blue Heron School this summer as a school security project before classes begin.

In July, the Port Townsend School District board voted unanimously to approve a $151,399.97 bid from Double D Electrical of Port Hadlock to install 49 cameras at Blue Heron School and 68 cameras at PTHS.

Prior to the board’s decision, none of the schools had security cameras. However, cameras had long been used on board school buses, Polm said, adding that cameras were now considered a standard feature when school buses are built.

The cameras were one of the school’s safety projects. The cameras are to be placed both inside and outside of school buildings, and the video footage is to be digitally recorded and stored for up to 30 days.

The cameras are to be installed at all entrances and exits, at spaces near restrooms, in main hallway spaces and in the gymnasium.

NOT IN CLASSROOMS

Cameras are not to be installed in classrooms, Polm said.

The school district estimated the cost of the camera system to be about $170,000 and received three bids. The lowest bid, from Double D Electrical, was lower than expected at $151,399.97. A second bidder, Security Services Northwest Inc. of Gardiner, bid $194,021, and Bird Electric of Poulsbo bid $194,648, according to school documents.

Double D Electrical’s bid includes $20,100 for wire and lift rental, $66,889 for cameras, $42,337 for labor, $5,790 for possible change orders, $4,077 for a bond and $12,164 in sales tax.

Polm also said Grant Street Elementary does not have cameras installed, but that the new Salish Coast Elementary School would have them.

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