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HOMER-CENTER: Directors approve upgraded security at schools

by on September 20, 2013 11:00 AM

CENTER TOWNSHIP — The Homer-Center School District board of directors has given the go-ahead for a security-enhancement project that will add electronic locks to the elementary and senior high school entrances and a video surveillance system to the campus.

The improvements will cost an estimated $217,200. Project architect Greer Hayden, of the HHSDR engineering firm of Sharon, said the work would be done between Jan. 6 and Feb. 28.

According to a design presented Thursday to the Homer-Center school board, card reader entry systems with video intercoms would be installed at three entrances to the elementary school. The entrance to the school office would have a double-locked vestibule, and an entry to the district office would have a keypad code access system.

At the junior-senior high school, the main entrance and a lower-level entrance to the gym and band room would have the security upgrades.

A network of surveillance cameras — four at the elementary school and 21 at the secondary building — would provide views of known and potential problem areas in the school, the playground and the exit driveway. Hayden said the system is meant to record the activities in and around the school, but that school officials could see the activity live online.

Asked about the small number of cameras for the elementary building, District Superintendent Charles Koren said, “We needed to take a step in the direction of having some cameras, and we didn’t want to go overboard, from having zero cameras to every angle.

“We thought our first priority was to be able to see vehicles leaving and to be able to digitize license plates. And the two for the back playground — we now have no eyes back there at all,” Koren said.

The fourth camera at the elementary would look at the gym entry, which is used as the public entry after hours.

Board President Vicki Smith and Vice President Gerald Bertig said the board hopes that some of the project cost might be reimbursed by the state.

The administration will begin advertising for bids Monday and the board is expected to award a contract Oct. 17.

Hayden also presented options for improvements at Memorial Field, the district’s off-campus football stadium in Homer City, but the board made no commitments to a project.

If anything, board members made clear that the district does not have enough money make some of the possible changes.

Examples: Renovating the old concession stand into team rooms, estimated at $400,000. A new prefabricated restroom and concession building at $300,000 — plus necessary foundation and utility work at $95,000. A decorative entry plaza at $165,000 and a community memorial at $50,000. New bleacher seating ramps at $45,000. A new coaches’ box at $75,000. A parking area for VIPs and people with disabilities at $65,000.

“I don’t want anyone to think we’re going to run right out and borrow money and do this, because that’s not our plan right now. We’re just visualizing what we can do,” Smith said. “We have to renovate our facilities because they are not handicapped-accessible. There are other reasons to be updating them, but we want to do it in a practical manner.”

Bertig, too, said the design is just a vision.

“The facility was built in the 1940s and hasn’t had a lot of investment since. We know that,” Bertig said. “We are obligated to have our facilities handicapped-compliant, so we have a definite issue with access to the field in general, access to the bleachers and the restroom facilities. Those were our priority items going in.”

Bertig said the board wanted to have a master plan identifying what the stadium needs, rather than doing things piecemeal.

“I feel I can say for most people here that looking at these numbers tonight, even though we know that other districts spend this kind of money, it’s not going to easily be in the cards here if this is what it’s going to cost,” Bertig said.

Board members had thought about spending $50,000 to $75,000 to enlarge the team rooms, he said.

Hayden said the improvements proposed for the stadium would cost an estimated $1.7 million. Some projects designed by HHSDR at other schools in western Pennsylvania were completed with support from community donors and volunteer services, he said.

“We’re most likely not going to be able to do high-design things here,” Bertig said. “It would be wrong to say to the public tonight that we are considering a $1.7 million renovation. That is not the case. We don’t have that much money in our reserve now and we’re not in a position to borrow money for football renovations until we get some of our debt down.”

Bertig said such a project most likely would be done “with a multi-year approach, and with some serious fundraising.”

In other business, the school board:

• Was told that the district is again hosting a Drive One For Your School test drive program from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the high school. Under an agreement with Luther Ford, the school will receive $20 for each district resident who takes a no-obligation test drive of a Ford vehicle during the program, to a maximum of 300 drives for a donation of $6,000.

High school Principal Jody Rainey said the proceeds would go to the Junior-Senior Prom and After Prom Committee and could cover up to 45 percent of the cost of the 2014 after prom.

• Agreed to accept a grant of $2,500 from the ING Run for Something Better program. The finds will be used to set up a 2-kilometer race for children Oct. 19 on the Hoodlebug Trail.

• Accepted the resignation of special-education teacher Michael Gentile Jr., effective Oct. 10.

• Approved seven staff travel and nine student field trip requests, including teachers Tony Buffone and Sarah Fyock to travel with the eighth-grade class on Nov. 15 for a piloted experience at the Challenger Learning Center at Wheeling Jesuit University, in Wheeling, W.Va., at a cost to the district of $2,576.

Buffone and Fyock also were approved to attend training at the Challenger center on Oct. 23 at a cost of two substitute teachers for one day.

• Modified a district policy to allow qualifying home-schooled students to attend Indiana County Technology Center. The change was made at the request of a 10th-grade student, and the new wording is the same as that used by Marion Center Area School District for a similar policy change, Koren said.

• Authorized 11th-grade student Emerie Stagner to represent Homer-Center High School in PIAA interscholastic swimming, participating individually.

• Authorized the administration to continue negotiation with Homer City Borough Police to provide additional security at extracurricular events. The borough police now patrol Memorial Stadium during football games; the district is interested in having police in the high school during basketball games.

• Authorized the participation of kindergarten through sixth-grade students in an asthma study sponsored by Indiana University of Pennsylvania, with their parents’ consent.

• Accepted the resignation of Carol Paynter, secretary to the business manager, effective Sept. 18, and hired Dana Zenisek as a temporary substitute secretary at a wage of $11.17 an hour from Sept. 16 until a full-time confidential secretary is hired.

• Accepted the resignations of cafeteria worker Carrie Woods, effective Aug. 23, and instructional aide Karen Sulkosky, effective Oct. 3.

• Hired Connie Miller as a part-time cafeteria worker at $9.64 an hour.

• Approved Shayla Moore as a marching band assistant at the supplemental salary of $1,144; Cory Stewart-Leydic as the assistant director of bands at a salary of $2,457; and Mike Arone as assistant junior high boys’ basketball coach at $2,256.

• Approved final documents related to the 2007 construction project and the refinancing of the project bond in August. The paperwork, called the Plancon K report, is required by the state Department of Education.

• Approved the use of the Class of 2013 to use the elementary cafetorium from 8 to 10 p.m. Saturday for a fundraising dance to follow the powder-puff football game. The group will pay no fee.

• Approved district property owner Peggy Domenick to participate in the STEP program for the 2013-14 school year. Domenick, a senior citizen, would be entitled to a reduced real estate tax bill for volunteer work in the schools.

• Terminated a wrestling cooperative agreement with Indiana Area School District at the request of Indiana.

• Approved the district’s participation in the Power Pack Program assisting elementary school students in need of food through Indiana County Community Action Program.

Chauncey Ross is the Gazette’s fixture at Indiana Area and Homer-Center school board meetings, has been seen with pen and notepad in area police stations and courts, and is something of an Open Records Act and Sunshine Law advocate. He also manages the Gazette’s websites and answers your questions about them.
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