By Curt Yeomans
Clayton County Public Schools Chief Operations Officer Cephus Jackson re-iterated, Monday, his belief that security upgrades at five schools will begin within the next week, after the county's school board approved five contracts for the project on Monday night.
The school board voted on the contracts -- one for each school to receive an upgrade -- as part of a massive consent agenda that also included the school system's financial, purchasing, human resources, construction and Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) revenue reports, a contract for the re-roofing of Fountain Elementary School, and voice-and-data systems for the Eddie J. White K-8 Academy, and the Ash Street Center.
The school board approved the lengthy consent agenda by a 6-2 vote. School Board Members Jessie Goree and Trinia Garrett voted against the items, after expressing concerns over an item in the system's purchasing report.
The approval of the security-upgrade contracts, worth a combined $540,700, means a district-wide initiative to upgrade security at every school in the system is now under way. The upgrades will be paid for using SPLOST IV funds. The first schools to receive upgrades will be Hawthorne, Hendrix Drive, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Thurgood Marshall elementary schools, and Kemp Primary School.
The upgrades include the installation of video cameras at every exterior entrance to school buildings, and controlled-access systems in each school, meaning no one would be able to enter a school unless they have a key card, or are given access by someone in the school's front office.
"The workers should start pulling wire [in the schools' ceilings] soon, but we'll wait until this summer to do any construction work," Jackson said. "I just don't want to have anything falling on our students while they're here."
The most construction-heavy part of the security upgrades is the erection of walls, with controlled-access doors in them, in the lobby areas of each school, creating a foyer in the school.
Jackson said a person going to a school would have to wait until someone in the school's front office pushed a button unlocking the exterior door. The visitor would then have to go to the front office, to get someone there to push another button that would unlock the door separating the foyer from the rest of the school, he said.
Infrastructure for internal cameras would be installed inside the schools as well.