Ottumwa Schools adds new security cameras in a commitment to student safety

Updated: Jul. 19, 2021 at 9:15 PM CDT
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OTTUMWA, Iowa (KYOU) - In an early February press conference on Ottumwa Schools’ new direction, Superintendent Mike McGrory discussed security changes the school district would be chasing: “Safety, as you know, is a concern in a lot of school districts. We felt we need to be proactive with any safety concerns our parents or our staff have.”

This summer, crews are removing old cameras from Evans and the Ottumwa High School. Those cameras are getting replaced with high-tech, high-definition cameras. Landon Allen, the district’s new Technology Director, has been heading the project. He says the cameras are also going in places where there have previously been blind spots, including “outside, hallways, staircases, where maybe there have been historically problems. [We’re] wanting students to have that sense of safety throughout the building. And I think having those cameras helps that.”

The high school will get 115 new cameras. Evans gets 77. The old cameras will be repurposed into the elementary school. Allen says the cameras will cover blind spots pointed out by the schools’ principals. “When a student exits one frame or one camera, they’re entering into another. With 115 cameras, we’re going to have significant coverage.” Allen estimates they’ll more than double their cameras in both the Ottumwa High School and Evans.

It also helps with accessibility. The old cameras ran off multiple DVRs that Allen said could be challenging for the principals to login to. These new cameras are streamlined, even able to be streamed from the principal’s phone or computer. A TV in the schools’ front office will roll a live feed of the shots. Not to mention the difference in clarity. The old cameras shot at a much lower resolution. These new cameras can go up to 16 megapixels, according to Allen.

Another high-tech security measure getting implemented in the schools: vape detectors. These are getting added to 12 bathrooms in the high school, and can detect vape smoke, THC oil, e-cigs, and even measure carbon monoxide, pressure, and humidity nearby. Allen says they’ll be “monitoring many many different chemicals.”

And when used in conjunction with the security cameras, they’ll be able to very easily identify a vape alert. “We’re going to know that the time the vape detection goes off is real time. We’re going to know who’s going in and out of the restrooms with the footage. So we feel it’s a win-win in that case.”

Fitting with the district’s commitment to safety. “We’re all in. We’re going to invest whatever we need to to make sure they have whatever resources they need to have safe learning environments.”

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