INDIANA AREA: Security upgrades advanced
March 26, 2013 10:50 AM

New video surveillance systems, replacements for public address and telephone systems, new interior doors and additional card-access entrances may be on the way for the six schools in the Indiana Area School District.

So may police officers on patrol in the school corridors.

The school board Monday evening authorized the administration to make plans for the series of improvements, at early estimates of $860,000 to be taken from the district’s capital projects budget.

The board directed the administration and the Buildings and Ground Committee to explore additional safety improvement measures, including upgrades to the main entrances of the schools, replacement or modification of other exterior doors, protection of ground level windows and physical barriers.

Committee Chairman Walter Schroth told directors that some of the work would be done as routine upkeep.

The board also authorized administrators and the committee to meet with state police and Indiana Borough police to arrange for police protection for the schools. In conjunction with that, the directors approved a study of the feasibility of having the senior high school property annexed from White Township into Indiana Borough, where the borough police would have jurisdiction and be more likely to respond sooner to an emergency.

Schroth said the committee recommends arranging for 40 hours of state police patrols in East Pike and Ben Franklin elementary schools, not necessarily eight hours a day Monday through Friday, but when needed for certain events including evenings and weekends.

Whether the district actually arranges for the patrols would depend in part on the costs and other factors to be determined by the meetings with the police officials, Schroth said.

In connection with the safety improvement discussion — inspired by the shooting deaths of 26 students and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut — board member Diana Paccapaniccia said the board should reconsider hiring a full-time school psychologist, who could potentially identify students with mental-health problems.

Paccapaniccia also asked whether any drawbacks to the annexation of the high school were known, and along with director Alison Billon voted against the motion.

Board members Schroth, David Ferguson, Robert Gongaware, President Thomas Harley, Brian Petersen and Robert Werner were in favor; Hilliary Creely was absent.

The board voted without opposition to move ahead with the safety enhancements for the buildings.

Earlier in the meeting, high school social studies teacher Mike Tshudy, the president of Indiana Area Education Association, said a survey of the teachers union showed their support for the safety improvements.

“There is no effective cost-benefit analysis when part of the equation is protecting human lives,” Tshudy said. “However, we are hopeful that the costs … to not supersede educational quality or opportunities.”

Board members said capital budget funds are earmarked for construction and renovation work and would not take away from the general operating funds.

Directors also approved, without opposition, the building and grounds committee’s recommendation to arrange for new lighting and a dimmer rack for the senior high school auditorium, to relocate the art room in Ben Franklin Elementary, to replace fire alarm systems in Ben Franklin and Horace Mann elementary schools, to replace the water heater in East Pike Elementary School, and to replace asbestos flooring in Eisenhower, Ben Franklin and Horace Mann schools.

Those projects, estimated to cost $348,000, would be paid from the capital budget along with the security work. Schroth said all would be covered with the excess of $16 million in funds borrowed for the ongoing districtwide energy efficiency improvement project.

In other business, the board:

Hired Parker Surveying, of Indiana, for additional survey work on the residential lot adjacent to the senior high school at 521 N. Sixth St. at a cost of $400. Board member Walter Schroth said Parker was named to replace a surveying firm that has gone out of business.

The survey work is intended to mark a right-of-way for a driveway to connect North Sixth Street with the high school grounds.

The vote was 7-1, with Billon opposed.

Appointed director Brian Petersen as the district’s representative to the Armstrong-Indiana Intermediate Unit No. 28 board of directors, subject to election by the remainder of the ARIN board at the unit’s convention April 16.

Agreed to include the replacement of marching band uniforms for consideration in the 2013-14 budget at a cost up to $100,000. Board members said committing the funds allows band officials to place an order for uniforms to be delivered for the 2014-15 school year. Directors also suggested that fundraising efforts by the band boosters would help ease the district’s expense.

Approved a recommendation to immediately replace the high jump pit at the senior high school rather than in the 2013-14 budget year as originally planned, at a cost of $4,275.

Approved the rental of charter buses to transport fourth-grade students from Ben Franklin, East Pike and Eisenhower schools on field trips to the Challenger Learning Center in Wheeling, W.Va., at a cost of $2,220.

Accepted the resignation of food service worker Lynn Phillips, effective Thursday.

Approved two applications for external grants: one is in partnership with Indiana University of Pennsylvania, a request for funds from State Farm for an elementary school program promoting respect for diversity, and the other for the 2013 Mantis Tiller Award.

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