By Malcolm Butler
In the latest Lincoln Parish School Board meeting a few weeks ago, the council voted to move forward with the Request for Proposal (RFP) on a new video camera system that will eventually be installed and utilized in every school within the parish.
It’s something that is greatly needed in a day and age where more and more incidents on school campuses nation-wide are occurring.
Lincoln Parish School Board superintendent Ricky Durrett said the timeline for installing the new system — once a company is selected through the RFP process — across every campus in the parish is approximately two years. He hopes installation will begin on the first campuses as soon as October.
“We have four different camera systems that are currently being used across our parish school system,” said Durrett. “(Most) of them are 10 to 15 years old. We need to have one system — the same system — at every school in order to make it more efficient. Cameras have come a long way in the last five years, and we need to have a better quality system and better quality cameras.”
Durrett said the RFP is out for 30 days, then the school board will be able to select the company. He anticipates the cost of the new system parish-wide will be somewhere around $1 million.
“We are using stimulus money to pay for this,” said Durrett. “It’s a good expenditure utilizing one-time monies. Once we get the new system in place, we will have the structure necessary to monitor all of our schools. And it will make replacing cameras or other parts much easier.”
Tim Nutt, child welfare and attendance officer for the LPSB, said he has spent much of his summer working with area principals, administrators and the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office to talk through current safety measures and what can be done to improve them.
“We are constantly plotting and talking and trying to address weak areas within our campuses as far as safety is concerned,” Nutt said. “We are in the process of revamping every camera system. High quality cameras. Additional cameras. A more user-friendly system. That’s another piece of the safety puzzle.”
Nutt and Durrett said that not only will each school be able to monitor their cameras on school premises, but the Lincoln Parish School Board central office and the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office will be able to utilize them both in real time as well as to review taped footage.
“It helps us in classrooms, in the hallways, and in exterior areas of our campuses,” said Durrett. “It’s safety and security, but its also a deterrent — both for people breaking into a school and for student’s on campuses. The camera never lies. It’s more powerful than one person’s word against another person’s word on what happened in a particular situation.”
Nutt said that the central office hasn’t pinpointed the order in which the new system will be installed in parish schools, but the goal is to begin with the schools in greatest need.
Ruston High School Principal Dan Gressett said the new system will be a tremendous upgrade in a number of areas from what they are currently using.
“It’s just so outdated now,” said Gressett. “It’s a few different systems from a few different companies kind of patched together. We have made some improvements over the years; really just a band aid here and a band aid there. We are in desperate need of a totally new system.
“We have some cameras that aren’t operational. And when one goes down, you have to figure out who is supposed to work on it. It’s just not a totally efficient system due to its age. We have really been pushing for a new system for a while. We just need a total redo. We want the best we can have in order to add to our safety measures on campus.”
With the start of new school year just days away, Gressett said he feels good about RHS’s safety measures already in place, but that the new system will just add another line of campus security.
“We have assistant principals that monitor them throughout the day,” said Gressett. “It’s essential for us to be able to have eyes on all areas of our campus in order to feel more comfortable that our campus is safe. We are limited now in some areas on what we can see. The new system will make it much more efficient for us.”