Penn Cambria school board approves security upgrades

CRESSON – Penn Cambria school board is working on close to $300,000 in summer security upgrades to all of its buildings – a project administrators said has been in the works for some time.

“Every entrance will be upgraded,” said Super

intendent Mary Beth Whited.

On Tuesday, the board approved a $270,000 contract with Texas-based company Schneider Electric Buildings Americas Inc. to update doorways and lock systems for entrances at the high, middle and intermediate schools, as well as the primary and pre-primary buildings and the district’s Central Administration Office, an annex to the pre-primary building.

Whited said more modern, efficient doorways will, of course, cut down on heating and cooling costs and save the district money.

But there is also a security element.

The vote came hours before students were set to return to Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, after a stabbing last week left 21 students and a security guard injured.

The violence was too close to home for some area parents and school officials, and making students feel safe was at the forefront of board members’ minds as they worked on the project, said Board President George Pyo.

“We’ve had members of the public come to meetings in the past” asking for more security, Pyo said. “We’ve been committed to this project for months, months.”

Whited said the project was in the works even before the deadly 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left

27 dead, including the shooter.

Whited said every school entrance, save for the administration office, already had magnetic locks that required a secretary to buzz visitors into the building.

“The door cannot be opened from the outside unless somebody from inside the office enabled it,” Whited said.

But by the end of this summer, workers will have added lobbies, where they are lacking, to contain visitors in a vestibule by the front office.

Visitors will not have access to the school until someone inside pushes a button to allow them to pass through a second set of magnetic locks, Whited said.

The project also will create a drop-off window for parents who need to deliver things to their children, so they don’t have to enter the school unnecessarily.

In addition, the district received $25,000 through a safe schools grant to add more security cameras.

Whited said although the district has been unable to secure grant funding for full-time police or resource officers for its five buildings, administrators have been working with local municipal police forces to increase patrols on school grounds and to conduct walk-throughs during the fall and spring semesters.

Administrators also have portable metal detectors they use at random, Whited said.

In other business:

— The board also set the graduation ceremony for the Class of 2014 for 2 p.m. June 7 at the Maurice Stokes Gymnasium at St. Francis University in Loretto.

— The board approved revised bus routes for May 1 through Nov. 5, while PennDOT works to replace a bridge along Route 53 in Gallitzin Township. It’s unclear how many students will be affected by the new routes, but officials said bus route information will be available on the district website and sent home with parents.

— The board approved a support staff union contract by a 6 to 3 vote. Board members Henry Nileski, Justin Roberts and Terry Krug voted no. Roberts and Krug declined to comment, but Nileski said he voted no because of one item regarding personnel. The contract was otherwise “excellent,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.