WLCSD proposes security, technology bond

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published October 2, 2013

 Hickory Woods Elementary School parent Angie Niedzinski tries out the new intercom system placed at all Walled Lake schools. All visitors must use the intercom system to gain access to any school building.

Hickory Woods Elementary School parent Angie Niedzinski tries out the new intercom system placed at all Walled Lake schools. All visitors must use the intercom system to gain access to any school building.

WALLED LAKE — With the November election drawing closer, the Walled Lake Consolidated Schools District wants residents to familiarize themselves with the proposed $67.5 million 30-year safety, security and technology bond that voters will decide on Nov. 5.

District officials said the bond would cost around $78 the first year and about $99 a year for 30 years for a resident with a $200,000 home.

The safety of Walled Lake students has been on the top of the list following tragedies like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, according to officials. The school district initiated a three-phase safety and security plan in 2012 and would use 2013 bond proceeds for the third phase of the segment.

“Ultimately, we need to keep our children safe,” said Superintendent Kenneth Gutman. “We live in a different world than we grew up in, and we owe it to the children, parents and community to keep them safe. This bond will provide the safety, technology and overall support for staff and students.”

Phase one of the safety plan began in December 2012 with the district locking all building doors during school hours. They also hired monitors for every school until an entrance intercom system could be installed in all buildings, which was phase two, implemented this school year.

In order to enter the buildings during school hours, visitors must use an intercom connected to the main office.

“For the last 10-15 years, we have always had a policy with anyone who entered the buildings that they were to report to the office to sign in and receive a visitor badge. Security and monitoring who enters the buildings have always been important to the school district,” said Judy Evola,  the district’s director of community relations and marketing.

If the bond passes, the security and safety portion of phase three will include entrance and office modifications, keyless entry, video surveillance systems, upgraded fire alarms, mass notification systems, emergency back-up generators, emergency responder signage, replacement of the phone and master clock systems, and replacing approximately 70 buses due to age and mileage.

After the 2000 bond, video surveillance systems were installed at Northern and Western high schools, and according to Director of Operations William Chatfield, they have served as a deterrent for those wanting to create mischief. The $91.92 million 2000 bond funded the construction and equipping of Northern High School, renovations to Western, air quality control systems for all schools and the purchase of property. It will be paid off in 2022. A $27.26 million 2004 bond was for renovation of middle schools, high schools and the Outdoor Education Center, and the purchase of 61 buses, upgraded technology infrastructure, and stadium upgrades. It will be paid off in 2024.

The district-wide network-based phone system can no longer be repaired, and the 2013 bond would allow the district to replace it with a digital voice-over protocol phone system.

Currently, less than half of the schools have generators installed.

“The bond will permit us to have generators at all of our schools so when we lose power, we can continue conducting instruction to the students,” said Chatfield.  

“We have 24 facilities, 2.5 million square feet, 15,000 students a day using our facilities and thousands of community members using the facilities at night. It is a tremendous amount of space to care for, and the buildings wear and tear, so you constantly need to assess what needs to be addressed,” said Chatfield.

After the district’s 2004 bond, principals and building administrators were questioned to find out what their needs and priorities were for the proposed 2013 bond. Combining those lists, the district came up with an extensive list of needs that they scaled down.

Securing the school district will take three years, and upon passing of the bond, the district plans to begin implementing the features immediately.

The emergency signage entails identifying and labeling the doorways and widows on every school from the outside. Each will be assigned a number with a placard or label and will be placed on the doorway outside of the buildings.

“It is a safety measure that a lot of school districts have implemented. We wanted to do it for a while and now is the time to do that,” said Chatfield.

The 2013 Safety, Security and Technology bond cannot be used for general operating budged expenses, salaries or benefits, and anything other than what is listed on the bond application with the State of Michigan. Last November, WLCSD voters passed a 10-year renewal of a 0.5-mill building and site sinking fund millage to bring in an estimated $2 million annually to the district that can be used on critical facility repairs.

Standardizing instructional technology
In addition to the safety and security portion of the proposed bond, the district also intends to standardize instructional technology in all classrooms with funds from the proposed $67.5 million generated by the new tax.

Included in the technology phase of the bond are ceiling-mounted interactive digital projectors, document cameras and wireless sound systems.

Pockets of teachers amongst the district already use interactive digital projectors and document cameras; however, the proposed bond would provide technology in all of the classrooms over the next three years, according to Mark Hess, executive director of instruction, technology and assessment for the district.

The ceiling-mounted interactive digital projectors can be used on any surface, with interactivity existing in the projector.

For instance, Hess explained, a first-grade teacher is able to display an image on a table, and students can manipulate the data, image or graph, or interact in real time.

The document cameras the district selected are high definition and full color. Because of the zoom power and ability for teachers to add notes underneath the projects, the document cameras provide greater detail than an overhead projector.

The interactive projectors and document cameras will also allow students who are absent to watch the lessons they missed, explained Evola.

“We’ve had teachers using technology for many years. Many have their own website, and they’ll have videos or presentations,” she said. “This way, every teacher will have the tools they need to provide the experience for the students.”

Currently, the district has more than 30 different models of cameras and projectors throughout the 19 buildings, which makes it difficult for support teams to provide efficient service, according to officials.

“This will bring equity to all 630 classrooms and all 19 buildings,” Evola stated. 

If voters approve the bond, the district plans on monitoring the efficiency of instruction with the new instruments in the weeks and months after receiving the technology, and then again in the years to come.

The teachers and staff have been preparing for the advanced technology, and if voters approve the tax, will be using social media tools to conduct virtual professional development sessions, sharing how the projectors, document cameras and wireless audio systems have affected their teaching strategies.

Because the district cannot equip 630 classrooms in one summer, the process would be phased in over a two- to three-year span. Like the safety and security portion of the bond, the district plans to conduct a site survey of the 19 buildings and prioritize which buildings could be completed in a timely fashion, explained Hess.

Though some buildings are equipped to provide easy installation, certain infrastructures may need more work due to existing technology, fiber optics and wiring.

“There are a lot of changes taking place as we move to the new Common Core State Standards. We really see that this bond fits our needs and our teachers’ needs by providing the equipment to meet the standards,” Hess said.

For more information, visit www.wlcsd.org.