ICSD Security Upgrades
The Ithaca City School District is continually working to increase the safety of our students, staff, and families. We are currently engaged in several initiatives that will help ensure the security of our district’s community and facilities.
Smart Schools Bond Allocation
Several years ago, New York State voters approved the Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014, which authorized the creation of state debt and the sale of state bonds to finance improved educational technology and infrastructure. The ICSD was allocated $2.5 million from the Smart Schools Bond for the installation of high-tech security features in our school buildings, including access control systems and video security systems.
Access control systems will be installed in all school buildings throughout the district to limit and regulate interior and exterior entryways. The system will allow for key card entry, tailored access privileges, scheduled lock times, phone integration, and lockdown capabilities. In the event that an access card is lost or stolen, all privileges will be canceled, further limiting unauthorized access to schools.
All school buildings will also have exterior video security systems installed, and the current interior video security system at Ithaca High School will be enhanced. The video cameras will be network-attached, allowing for easy access for school administrators, regardless of their location. First responders will also have access to live feeds when necessary. The ICSD will not be using the video cameras for surveillance purposes. Rather, camera footage will only be used when issues or crises arise.
Construction of the access control system and video security systems will potentially begin this May and would then be scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2018-2019 school year. Although the conception of the district-wide project began, and was submitted, a few years ago, it continues to await approval from the New York State Education Department (NYSED) before it is allowed to commence.
This year, the ICSD has been working with TST BOCES to integrate and increase the effectiveness of existing Emergency Response Plans through NaviGate Prepared emergency response safety software. We have begun working with the NaviGate Prepared system at South Hill Elementary School and Ithaca High School, and will be operating it in all school buildings within the next school year.
NaviGate Prepared uses cloud-based technology to securely organize district and school-based emergency plans and associated information, such as call lists, building maps, color-coded floor plans, and photographs, including 360-degree photographs of rooms and corridors. Authorized users and first responders, including 911 dispatchers, will have immediate, real-time access to this information. In addition, the NaviGate Respond application facilitates communication strategies during drills and emergencies, including alarms, messaging, and accounting for individual students.
The NaviGate Prepared team is currently mapping and photographing all areas of our school buildings and integrating building safety plans. The ICSD is planning professional development during the summer for administrators and other personnel in the district to prepare for the roll-out.
ICSD Voice-Over-IP (VoIP)
Contractors are currently working with the ICSD Technology Department to complete the second phase of the Voice-Over-IP (VoIP) project, which consists of installing telephones in all ICSD classrooms and setting up teacher voicemail. Phase one of the VoIP project—overhauling our existing system infrastructure and switching phone service providers—was finished last year and has resulted in a smoother phone use experience for district personnel.
Deployment of classroom phones will help facilitate communication between teachers, administrators, families, and community members. Having telephones in all classrooms is also critical because it supports easier communication to the central office or emergency support professionals when a safety issues arise.
In addition to installing telephones in all classrooms, the Technology Department is also working to set up teacher voicemail, which will not be tied to any particular phone, but will instead be accessible from inside and outside of the district using a mailbox number and pin. Voicemails will also be delivered to recipients’ emails as attached sound files.
Another example of how the ICSD is continuously seeking improvements of our facilities is the current project at Caroline Elementary School. Construction of a new, more secure entryway with a vestibule that restricts access to the rest of the building and a sightline from the main office to the front door began over the recent February break.
The district chose to use the option of a $100,000 Capital Outlay project from our General Fund to create the new entryway for Caroline as it had been discussed as a potential project for many years. A Capital Outlay project is one with a maximum total cost of $100,000 that takes place at only building and that generates state aid back to the district in the same year. A district can do one project a year as long as it is approved in the budget to the voters.
“Keeping the ICSD community safe is at the forefront of our planning efforts in both the short and long-term,” says Superintendent Dr. Luvelle Brown. “There is always more that can be done, and our team is seeking everyone’s feedback for this continuous process. The “Let’s Talk” feature of the ICSD website is always available if the community has thoughts or concerns. We look forward to hearing from you.”