At a work session Monday evening, the Knox County Board of Education heard Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre's proposal for a review of security systems across all Knox County schools.
The move comes just a few weeks after 10News learned of a lawsuit between the Public Building Authority and a former contractor over security deficiencies in two schools.
In early February, the BOE asked McIntyre to develop a district-wide security review plan. Monday night, he presented that proposal to the Board.
"I think this is an opportunity for us to reassure our stakeholders and our public that our security alarm systems, our video systems, and our keyless entry systems are functioning appropriately and properly," McIntyre said at the start of Monday night's meeting.
The proposal recommends testing all burglar alarms, video camera systems, and key-less entry systems at each of the district's 88 schools. The current school security contractor, SimplexGrinnell, will inspect 27 schools before April 19, when TCAP testing starts. The remaining 61 schools will be inspected during summer break. McIntyre estimated the review will cost $48,000.
He said the district plans to fund the project within the existing budget.
"I don't anticipate seeking additional appropriations for it."
Board members appeared satisfied with the plan, but had several questions for the Superintendent.
"The one thing I still haven't heard yet is, how are you going to define which schools will be designated first?" asked board member Thomas Deakins.
McIntyre explained, testing will be conducted in two phases:
The first phase would review 27 schools, including Hardin Valley Academy and Powell Middle School. The remaining 25 schools would be selected randomly from across the county, but will include equal representation from each geographic school district. The remaining 61 schools will be tested this summer while students are out on break.
Some board members expressed an interest in a second idea: Checking the inventory of Knox County's school security systems, while the security review is already underway. McIntyre plans to ask SimplexGrinnell if that's a possibility.
"If we can integrate that into the work that SimplexGrinnell is going to do, we'll do that. If we can't, we'll look at other options to get that piece of work done," he said.
Other Board members, like Indya Kincannon, wanted to know more about the function of each security system and if they would truly serve as a deterrent to a school threat.
"I certainly understand fire alarms, smoke alarms, burglar alarms... that makes sense to me," she said, before questioning the use of cameras. "When I see cameras, I don't necessarily feel safer in knowing that there's a bunch of cameras. It seems to be more about collecting evidence for crimes for prosecuting them, rather than prevention."
After the meeting, BOE Chair Karen Carson said she felt the proposal was a good idea.
"I think once things happened in Connecticut in December," she said, referring to the Sandy Hook school shooting, "we're forced to re-look at, how do we protect the school while kids are in school?"
She added, "For two weeks, focus has been on security of a building. I don't want to discount that, but my focus has got to be on what do we do for our kids while they're in school."