Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

May 12, 2013

Safety chance

Proposed capital project up for May 21 vote contains security upgrades

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Lockport City Schools was considering another capital project, one that involved some security upgrades.

Then the Newtown, Conn. shootings took place in December. An outside agency, Corporate Consultants of Orchard Park, evaluated the security systems at each Lockport City School building.

The report said changes needed to be made.

“We thought we were on the right track, but when we looked at this evaluation, we had to go further,” said Board of Education Trustee Thomas Fiegl. Fiegl chairs the board’s facilities committee.

So, along with a budget and a school board election, voters will be asked to consider a $22.1 million capital improvement project on May 21.

About $1.8 million of the proposed project will go toward security upgrades. The $1.8 million portion will be fully covered by Albany, a result of the state’s promise to add 10 cents per dollar in reimbursement rates for school security improvements.

For Lockport that promise means an eight-cent increase to 100 percent coverage for the security upgrades. 

Roughly 92 percent of the total project cost will be covered by state building aid with the rest, about $3.1 million, will come from the Lockport district’s capital reserve, meaning no additional tax impact on residents.

“The way of the world has dictated this security thing, it’s pushed everybody to a high alert level,” Fiegl said. “All the things that could happen... you’re trying to cover all your bases. But it’s very expensive.”

The security upgrades will touch each of the district’s buildings. A major aspect of those upgrades is improving the main entrances to a few of the schools.

Deborah Coder, Lockport’s assistant superintendent for finance, said for example, Lockport High School needs some physical work on its Lincoln Avenue entrance, as does Roy B. Kelley Elementary.

At both of those schools, the main entrance would be redone as part of the project, Coder said.

Details are still being figured out on exactly how the entrance will change, Fiegl said. But a challenge at the high school, as well as Kelley, is that the main office is so far from the main entrances. And there is the addition of cameras, which will be included. 

Timothy Parker, the district’s director of facilities, said there are 26 doors and 12 main doors at the high school alone. Controlling access to the school is a major component of the security upgrades, as is intrusion detection.

And then there are complications, such as residents who walk the school after hours or deliveries that come to the building during the day. There are also fire codes, because people need to be able to let out of a building safely and quickly.

“All of these doors have to be secured some way, somehow,” Fiegl said. “We have to look at all angles.”

The district’s last security upgrade was in 2008. Prior to that, the last upgrade was in 2000, in the aftermath of the Columbine shootings.

In addition to the project, the district has been reviewing security policies and procedures, said Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley.

And the Board of Education’s facilities committee did a recent walkthrough at some schools with local law enforcement.

There’s always been a plan in place, but now schools are reviewing everything.

“We’ve taken this to another level,” Bradley said. “Our number one priority in our district is to keep our schools safe.”

A major drill is coming next month on June 24 at the high school, coordinated by law enforcement and the city fire department. Eastern Niagara Hospital will also participate.

Lockport faculty and staff are going through training as well. There is also a close relationship with the city Police Department and the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, Fiegl said. The high school’s resource officer is a Lockport police officer.

The security evaluation was extensive, Fiegl said, but a lot of the findings the district was aware of. A good chunk of the findings can be resolved by just tightening up procedures, for example not holding the door open for an unknown visitor to a school. Instead, that person should have to be buzzed in no matter what.

Changes are being implemented now, Parker said. And it’s working, so far.

Bradley said she visited schools earlier this month as part of Paint Your School Purple Day. When she visited classrooms, every door was locked.

Other project work includes enhancing the kitchens at each of the elementary schools, upgrading the boiler system at Charlotte Cross School, putting in energy efficient windows at Anna Merritt Elementary, while new efficient lighting will be installed in a number of buildings.

Replacing the sidewalks at John Pound Early Childhood Center, installing emergency lights at various school buildings and adding an emergency generator at Charles Upson is also on the agenda.

Additional work includes upgrading heat, ventilation, air handling, water heaters and building piping at a number of schools, as well as improving vehicular and pedestrian access to Roy B. Kelley Elementary.

Workers will also replace select ceilings at Lockport High School and renovating bathroom facilities at Charlotte Cross School.

A number of technology upgrades will also be done, including a new wireless network and digital signs for video streaming with large screen LCD panels.

Most of the building upgrades were recommended by a state-mandated building condition survey conducted in 2010. Some improvements were addressed in 2011’s $18.9 million project.

PROPOSED CAPITAL PROJECT • TOTAL: $22.1 million (with $1.8 million going toward security upgrades) • FUNDING: Covered by state building aid, at a reimbursement rate of 92 percent, as well as about $3.1 million from the Lockport district's capital reserve and no additional tax impact on residents • WORK: Enhancing the kitchens at the elementary schools, upgrading the boiler system at Charlotte Cross School, energy efficient windows going in at Anna Merritt Elementary, while new efficient lighting will be installed in a number of buildings • Replacing the sidewalks at John Pound Early Childhood Center, installing emergency lights at various school buildings and an emergency generator at Charles Upson • Heat, ventilation, air handling, water heaters and building piping will be upgraded at a number of schools • Improving vehicular and pedestrian access to Roy B. Kelley Elementary • Replacing select ceilings at Lockport High School and renovating bathroom facilities at Charlotte Cross School • A number of technology upgrades will also be done, including a new wireless network and digital signs for video streaming with large screen LCD panels

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.