A $500,000 expenditure by the Wauwatosa School District - plus a matching federal grant - would help keep Wauwatosa's schools safer and could set the stage for a more expansive safety and building management system across the district in the coming years.
The nearly $1 million project, expected to be completed by July, would add security cameras to schools across the district, as well as make school entryways more secure, said Jamie Price, district technology coordinator. The system also could be expanded to provide a hub to control functions like heating and cooling in buildings across the district. "It's important to understand that this is really just a foundational project," Price said. "The intent is to build on it in future years, both from a video surveillance and access controls standpoint."
The School Board still needs to vote on the plan, although the district's financial share was included in the recently approved budget.
The project started out on a smaller scale last year and was intended to be done incrementally, but a $492,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services program helped push full implementation up to this school year. Wauwatosa was one of eight municipalities in Wisconsin that received money through the grant program. The district has cameras and other features in place now, Price said, but the schools' resource officers have said those systems are outdated and inadequate for the current school population.
Some of the new cameras - especially those placed in heavily traveled, "high-risk" areas - would be 180-degree cameras, meaning they would not have the 30-or 40-second-long blind spots associated with traditional panning cameras, Price said.
One of the questions that still has to be settled is who will get access to the surveillance system - and what form that will take. The Wauwatosa Police Department's dispatch center will have access to the system, but that doesn't mean there is going to be somebody watching the video feed all day long. "We don't have people sitting on these cameras and watching them all day, every day," Price said. "If there is an incident, it's very important from their perspective for them to be able to review that incident."