Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs School Board members declined to vote on a proposal Monday night to boost security measures at all four district schools, citing the need for more community input and lingering questions about funding a plan that could include internal security cameras.
In December, school officials received a $533,000 federal "Secure Our Schools" grant to help boost security measures at all four schools in the school district. To help match the grant, district officials have set aside $245,000. They hope to secure an equal amount from the Education Fund Board. Routt County commissioners last week rejected a request from district officials for matching funds.
School Board members, city officials, school administrators and community members spent Monday's board meeting debating the pros and cons of purchasing electronic keycard access systems as well as interior and exterior security cameras that would be funded as part of the grant.
The School Board voted Dec. 3 to purchase 800 MHz radios for administrators at a cost of $145,284. But board members continue to waver over the need for internal security cameras. Proponents have said internal cameras would increase safety and decrease crime such as theft and vandalism. Opponents have argued the cameras invade the privacy of students and could destroy a culture of trust established at campuses such as Steamboat Springs High School.
There have been few, if any, objections to cameras mounted on the exterior of school buildings and in parking lots.
"The way I look at any security measure is that we want our children - our students - to be comfortable in our schools, we want our teachers safe and comfortable, and we want parents feeling safe sending their children to our schools," School Board member Lisa Brown said. "My concern is that whatever we decide on actually provides any security."
Superintendent Sandra Smyser asked those in attendance Monday to consider the merits of the security measures, including who they would benefit and how much they would cost.
School Board member John DeVincentis, who strongly voiced his opposition to internal cameras when the issue was first brought to the board in December, said his concerns have been eased in recent weeks by discussing the issue with members of the community.
"I may not have as many reservations if we get a policy together," he said. "It seems that everything that is monetary is being rushed though. Let's take time to get a policy done, and a policy done well."
After the meeting, School Board President Robin Crossan said there is no timetable for a vote on the school security measures.
However, district Facilities Director Rick Denney said he hopes a decision is made soon so any additional security measures can be incorporated into the construction of Soda Creek Elementary School.
DeVincentis noted that he hopes the decision is not driven by monetary concerns.
"One of the things that concerned me with this whole discussion (is) it seems like we are always in a rush and we are worried about money right now, but we don't even have a policy in place," he said.
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