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Evanston Township High School is upgrading and expanding its use of surveillance cameras and other technology in what the administration says will bolster security for students and staff.
A report presented to the District 202 School Board in May hints at a plan to install 100+ new IP (internet protocol) high-definition security cameras, five parking-lot cameras and future infrastructure work for cameras at Lazier Field. Proxy card-readers will be installed on seven perimeter doors and lights in the school’s parking lots will be replaced with LED fixtures.
Two blue emergency phones with security cameras have already been installed on the campus in front of the school on Dodge Ave. Both are monitored by the Evanston Police Department.
All but five of the 100+ new IP cameras will replace older, existing cameras around campus, according to William Stafford, chief financial officer for District 202. The remaining cameras will be positioned around the school to help cover “blind spots” as identified by the school security department, said Mr. Stafford. The exact location of the new cameras has not yet been determined.
“We’ve had cameras at ETHS for probably 20 years or more,” commented Dr. Erik Witherspoon, Superintendent. “In 2007 we upgraded to newer cameras inside and outside of ETHS because of the changing technology and the inability to maintain or get parts for our older camera system. At the time we could not afford all the cameras we were wanting to install (this is a huge building with acres of campus), so we have taken a long-range approach to adding cameras when we can afford them and adding current technology each time we install additional cameras. Our students have been very aware of the cameras on campus for decades and feel a strong sense of safety knowing we have cameras on the campus.”
Gretchen Livingston, president, Board of Education District 202, echoed Dr. Witherspoon’s sentiments. “There is nothing new about the use of cameras at ETHS. These are just upgrades to the system.”
The use of security cameras on campus was first approved by the School Board in March 1999. Then, 500 cameras were installed at a cost of $1 million. The current camera upgrades will cost approximately $500,000 and come out of the school’s Capital Improvements Program bond funds, according to Mr. Stafford.
The only policy governing the use of security cameras at ETHS was found in the student handbook, “The Pilot” under “Student Conduct.” The policy reads, “A video monitoring system may be in use in public areas in and around the school building, and video and/or audio monitoring may be in use on school busses. These systems are in place to protect students, staff, visitors and school property. If a discipline problem is captured on audiotape or videotape, these recordings may be used as the basis for imposing student discipline. If criminal actions are recorded, a copy of the tape may be provided to law enforcement personnel. Only designated school personnel will review the surveillance videos.”
The new security cameras will be installed this summer and fall.