New video surveillance equipment will be installed at De Soto Junior High School and De Soto High School
The De Soto Board of Education voted 5-0 July 29 to award a $148,649.84 contract to Midwest Computech in Columbia for cameras, a five-year software license and more. Board members Beverly Wilson and Nichole Spruell were absent from the meeting.
The De Soto School District received $250,000 from the state’s new School Safety Grant program in May, and about $160,000 of that was set aside to purchase new video surveillance equipment for the district’s two secondary schools.
Superintendent Josh Isaacson said Midwest Computech submitted the lowest of seven bids for the surveillance system, which includes 109 cameras and a 10-year hardware warranty. The software package comes with unlimited cloud archiving, unlimited access across web and mobile platforms, and automatic updates.
The contract requires the system to be fully tested and operational by Sept. 1.
Isaacson said the high school is the only building in the district with cameras. The existing 20-year-old analog system includes 64 indoor cameras and 14 outdoor cameras. One of the problems is that not all of the cameras are on the same server, so the time stamps differ from camera to camera making it hard for administrators to pull up an incident, Isaacson said.
“(The newly purchased cameras and other equipment) are what the administrators were looking for,” Isaacson said. “Currently our camera system is antiquated. This new system has 109 cameras and within that, it uses the AI technology where you can put in a half license plate and it will pull all the cars, for exterior cameras. For interior cameras, you can say red shirt and it will pull all the individuals wearing a red shirt.”
He said the new system will be easier to use, and district officials may train local law enforcement personnel and firefighters to use the surveillance system if an emergency arises.
“We want them to have access to the system so if there was any type of emergency event, whether it be a natural disaster or active shooter, they would have access,” he said.
Assistant Superintendent Ron Farrow, who sat in on the company’s product demonstrations, said he was impressed with the technology.
“The ease of access to information is phenomenal with these cameras,” Farrow said. “If (administrators) have a concern with a certain area, they can immediately pull up a search by a red sweatshirt that was reported or search by a certain student even. We can upload our entire student database of school pictures so that we immediately have those to search by students, if need be.
“You can then set up parameters to where a student or a parent who was on camera that caused something and may be banned from campus, it’ll automatically send a text alert to any of the administrators if that person is on camera again.”
Farrow said the system could connect to district card readers and vape detectors.
“We have card readers at main entrances and other entrance locations for faculty and staff to use as part of our safety and security measures to have doors locked at all times for student and staff safety,” Isaacson added. “The district also has vape detectors at our secondary campuses, which currently provide alerts to administrators and SROs, and now the camera system can be incorporated to start recording at those locations when the detectors go off.”
The district’s top priority in its Strategic Plan is adding security cameras to every school in the district, Isaacson said.
He estimated it would cost an additional $240,000 to install surveillance systems at all the schools. The district expects for those systems to be added at Athena Elementary during the 2024-2025 school year; Vineland Elementary in 2025-2026; and the Early Childhood Center, Annex and Central Office in 2026-2027.
The remaining funds from the School Safety Grant will be used for other safety improvements, district officials said.
In April 2019, voters approved Proposition Safe Schools, which generates about $300,000 a year for safety and security. About half of that amount goes to school resource officers. The remainder is used for security improvements at the buildings. Those funds have been used to replace interior classroom doors and install video cameras on buses.