Whether to discourage student misbehavior or establish secure campuses, more school officials along the Peninsula are considering installing camera surveillance systems.
Officials with the Belmont-Redwood Shores Elementary and San Mateo Union High school districts are both advancing in considerations to adopt the technology, while Millbrae officials may resurrect the initiative as well.
The discussions arrive as high school district officials seek to crack down on misbehavior such as a rise in anti-Semitic graffiti, while Belmont-Redwood Shores officials wish to protect against outside threats.
Michael Milliken, superintendent of the Belmont-Redwood Shores Elementary School District, said his board last week tweaked proposed camera system designs with an eye on potentially approving the initiative later this month.
“It’s more about making sure we have a reasonable deterrent from bad behavior at our schools after hours and having a sense of who is pulling into our parking lots and walking on and off our campuses,” he said.
Milliken said officials are only considering installing cameras at the entrances and exits on the perimeters of campuses to track who is visiting school sites, while the technology would not monitor behavior on the campus interior.
The discussion rose following the January death of Mohammad Othman, a Carlmont High School student who was shot and killed in front of Central Elementary School in Belmont.
The fatal incident occurred around 10:55 p.m. and police ultimately determined it was not related to the elementary school. But still, Milliken said the crime alarmed members of the school community and compelled officials to think more about security measures.
“Belmont and Redwood Shores are safe communities and that incident from January was certainly a shock. But it was a bit of a wake-up call that we are not immune from bad things happening at schools,” he said.
As part of the initiative, Milliken said officials are also examining improvements to fencing, lighting and public address system as well as response protocol to assure students and staff are safe.
But if officials approve the cameras, he suggested installation at district campuses could begin in December. The proposal is expected to cost in the ballpark of $250,000, which Milliken said is available from the district’s facilities fund.
With adoption, Belmont-Redwood Shores would join the South San Francisco Unified, Sequoia Union High, Redwood City Elementary and San Mateo-Foster City Elementary school districts as those locally with security cameras.
San Mateo Union High and Millbrae Elementary school districts may soon join the ranks as well, so long as officials can identify financing mechanisms to afford the installations.
The San Mateo Union High School District Board of Trustees earlier this month approved moving ahead with designing a security camera system for all campuses. The decision arrived in the wake of a rash of anti-Semitic and offensive graffiti sprayed at Burlingame High School. Two incidents have occurred in the last year, the most recent of which was characterized by Superintendent Kevin Skelly as the worst graffiti he’s encountered at a school during his nearly four decades in education.
Looking ahead, district spokeswoman Laura Chalkley said work could begin on installing the cameras as soon as this summer, depending on whether officials pass a bond measure designed to help finance the $3 million initiative.
Similarly, Vahn Phayprasert, superintendent of the Millbrae Elementary School District, said district officials may resurrect a previous proposal to install cameras if a bond measure proposal gains momentum.
Officials previously weighed the installation following a rash of arson fires set at campuses a few years ago, but the initiative proposed to cost in the neighborhood of $93,000 was ultimately postponed.
“Although our board discussed cameras, they never took action to approve. They only directed staff to research and bring back information. … We are currently exploring cameras as part of a larger project,” he said in an email.
For his part, Milliken suggested his district’s pursuit of the initiative is symbolic of a commitment to assuring students, staff and campuses are kept as safe as possible.
“We are taking a hard look at our safety and security top to bottom and this is part of that,” he said.
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