Wisconsin Schools Spend $1M for Latest Surveillance System

The original installation is outdated and inadequate for the current school population.
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A Wisconsin school district plans to spend nearly $1 million to replace its outdated system of security cameras with the latest cameras at all of its schools, says a published report.

The Wauwatosa School District has allocated $500,000 of its funds, and has been awarded a grant for $492,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice to install a more expansive safety and building management system across the district, reports Wauwatosa NOW.

The nearly $1 million project, expected to be completed by July, would add security cameras to schools across the district, as well as make school entryways more secure, said Jamie Price, district technology coordinator. The system also could be expanded to provide a hub to control functions like heating and cooling in buildings across the district.

"It's important to understand that this is really just a foundational project," Price said. "The intent is to build on it in future years, both from a video surveillance and access controls standpoint." The School Board still needs to vote on the plan, although the district's financial share was included in the recently approved budget.

The project started out on a smaller scale last year and was intended to be done incrementally, but the federal grant helped push full implementation up to this school year, according to Price. Wauwatosa was one of eight municipalities in Wisconsin that received money through the grant program.

The district currently has cameras and other features in place, but those systems are outdated and inadequate for the current school population, Price said. Some of the new cameras—especially those placed in heavily traveled, "high-risk" areas—would be 180-degree cameras, meaning they would not have the 30-or 40-second-long blind spots associated with traditional panning cameras, he added. "Somebody can get run over in a parking lot, and the car can be gone, and you don't have any video footage of it, and then what good is the video system you've put in place?" he said.

The questions of who will have access to the surveillance system and what form that will take have yet to be decided by the school board. The Wauwatosa Police Department's dispatch center will have access to the system, but that does not mean the video feed will be continuously monitored. "We don't have people sitting on these cameras and watching them all day, every day," Price said. "If there is an incident, it's very important from their perspective for them to be able to review that incident."