Security upgrades coming soon to Berkeley schools

BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCIV) - The Berkeley County School District is upgrading its security systems in all of their buildings. Some changes will be noticed immediately, but others will require some time to be installed.

The deputy superintendent says no single event prompted these changes, but officials plan to continue adjusting their district-wide safety plan as needed. But there will be more cameras, more lights, and more signs being installed at each Berkeley County school.

"It's not unusual to hear of a school shooting or someone breaking in to schools or wanting to come in and do physical or bodily harm to individuals in our schools," said Deputy Superintendent Archie Franchini. "So we have to make sure that our schools are prepared and ready for those types of incidences as best we can."

Franchini says the first visible change will be more cameras, with a clearer image. The cameras will eventually be installed in all school buses and activity buses.

The cost to the district for the cameras and the servers to support them is $2.3 million.

"These new digital cameras allow you to see better, gives a larger area that we can see, it's much more clearer. Sometimes in the past we may be able to see there was a person, but we couldn't tell any distinguishing features about a person," he said.

The new cameras will change that.

Panic buttons are also being installed in each front office across the district in case of emergency.

"The receptionist is not going to be able to pick up the phone and call 911 necessarily, so this is a button that is available to our receptionists so they can make a silent call," Franchini said.

By the first of May, a new visitor management system will also be installed in front offices that will give the administration details about the people trying to visit the school.

"They'll have to swipe their driver's license. That will indicate to us if the person is on the national sex offenders list or if there is any reason why they shouldn't be allowed in to our schools," Franchini said.

District safety and security officer Tim Knight says one of the most important changes will need to come from the students. A new tip line is already up and running for students to report suspicious activity.

"If we don't know about it, we can't help them, so we're hoping that our students will utilize this tip line to let us know what's going on in their schools," Knight said.

As of Tuesday {}morning, the tip line has only had one call but Knight says it did lead to some helpful information.