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BoE spends $216K on security cameras
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Less than a week after a Frank Long Elementary School employee was assaulted at the school’s campus, the Liberty County School System authorized a $216,583 proposal for the installation of surveillance cameras.
Citing security concerns, the board previously has asked that the Courier not disclose which schools are and are not currently under surveillance.
The proposal includes $183,729 for installations at eight school sites and $32,854 for two auxiliary facilities.
Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer said last week that the proposal already was on the Tuesday work-session agenda prior to the Frank Long incident. In June 2012, the board earmarked about $180,000 in E-SPLOST funds to provide for cameras following the January 2012 incident in which two juveniles vandalized Midway Middle and Liberty Elementary schools.
Dr. Patti Crane, the district’s executive director of technology and media, presented the proposal Tuesday.
“We will have exterior and interior; you know, we can’t have 100 percent blanket coverage because of the cost, but we will have anywhere from 17 cameras to 21 cameras,” Crane said. “Not all of the school layouts are the same, so there’s going to be variation.”
Board of education Chairwoman Lily Baker asked how much of the annual E-SPLOST portion the project requires.
Jason Rogers, assistant superintendent for administrative services, said the board typically receives about
$8 million each year in revenue, so spending $216,000 is “very comfortable.”
“In light of what happened, I guess, I’m thinking about the incident, are these cameras, are they going to be situated when you come into the door?” board member Carolyn Smith Carter said. She also asked how much more it would cost to ensure the parking lots and exteriors are under surveillance.
Crane said the cameras will be strategically placed to maximize coverage.
“Again, with our funding, it’s not going to be Walmart power with them hanging on a pole out in the parking lot, but it will be some view,” Crane said.
Covering parking lots would require erecting light poles and running power out to those areas, she added. The camera systems have the potential for future expansions and upgrades.
“This is not where we want to be, because of money and everything else,” Baker said. “But this is a start.”
The board also spoke at length about school lunches with school nutrition director Dr. Chris Reddick.
At the beginning of the year, strict USDA guidelines with calorie restrictions and protein and grain limitations complicated nutrition operations. Some requirements were lifted in January 2013, which has given the nutrition offices some flexibility but still offers a challenge, she said.
Under the guidelines, those who comply will receive 6 cents more per-lunch meal reimbursement, Reddick said.
Board member Marcia Anderson asked whether fewer students are buying lunch due to the changes.
Reddick said the percentage of students participating in school lunch programs has changed from about 88 percent last year to 84 percent this year.
“That’s not a big decrease from what a lot of schools have already experienced,” Reddick said.
Board members said they are concerned about whether students are being fed appetizing meals, and they said some lunchroom managers have brought efficiency to their attention.
Baker recalled a recent school visit in which students were not eating their lunches.
“The children had the trays in front of them, and that particular day they had chicken, and that particular day the teachers said ‘This is the first time they’ve had chicken and they were able to recognize that it was chicken,” Baker said. “Before it was processed or whatever it was.”
Board member Carol Guyett added that teachers have told them they have to bring snacks because their students are hungry.
The board members said they also hear concerns about students eating pre-portioned side dishes out of Styrofoam containers rather than being served from a warm heating dish.
Reddick said that is a result of a district decision made four years ago to allow students to serve themselves rather than be offered items by staff. She offered to look into returning to staff-driven service.  

In other news Tuesday, the board also:
• approved a quit-claim deed granting .10 acre near Jordye Bacon Elementary to the Liberty County Hospital Authority to “square up the property line,” according to Rogers.

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