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The Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf plans to implement nearly $1 million worth of security and safety upgrades this year.
According to School for the Deaf director Michele Handley, the combined cost of security and safety improvements will be $997,000, with $365,000 going to security gate and perimeter fencing and $632,000 for security doors, televisions, fiber optics and associated security devices for campus buildings.
Handley said when she took the helm at ENCSD, the projects had already been approved and funded.
“In April of last year, we kind of had to back up quite a bit on the project,” Handley said. “The project had been put out for bid and had come back significantly over budget, so we had to really make some revisions and look at what was necessary, what was a more efficient way to cover the essential parts of the project.
“A team of us here from campus met with the engineers,” Handley said. “We went back through the plans and made some eliminations, and we have been able to get the project just perfect. The state has been able to negotiate with the bid winner from the first bid process so that they are willing to keep the bid with the new scope and under budget, so that is good news. The last update that I got is that it is with state construction right now, and we are just waiting for them to award the bid.”
The first project is a perimeter or a security fence that includes a gatehouse with controlled access.
The other is internal security measures and mechanisms for visually-oriented mass communication.
“So there will be TVs placed within all of the common areas,” Handley said. “The TVs in all of the classrooms are being updated so that they can all be compatible to a mass communication system on campus; should we have an emergency, we can get that message out quickly. It will also include a new badge system that will allow us to have that badge system access to the buildings.”
Handley said both projects will be beneficial for the students.
“We have to really monitor movement across campus,” Handley said.
“We are located right next to this highway, and that puts us at risk for transient or drop-in kinds of incidents, so having this perimeter security is going to allow our students to enjoy more freedom on campus, especially in terms of our high school students. They can check out of the dorm and go to the basketball game over in the gym and kind of get some independence, learn how to function within a set of rules and expectations.”
Handley said the school has quite a bit of traffic coming through its campus right now.
“They come onto campus and turn around and go back off of campus and then there is a lot of campus used as a cut-through over to the back of Longleaf (Neuro-Medical Center), and I think they are using that as a cutoff of the intersection,” Handley said.
Handley said the security improvements will provide less risk and more control for the residential students and teachers.
“We have students who are here 24-5, and so that is going to allow for a greater level of safety for our staff as they move about the campus during those overnight hours moving from building to building and checking on everything,” Handley said.
Part of the improvements will include a new alarm system geared toward the deaf and hard of hearing.
“It is basically going to be similar to the scrolling messages that you might see in the airport,” Handley said. “It is going to work similarly to that. It’s just going to be coming across a TV. We are going to have a program so we can even use that for non-emergency situations. We can use it to call a student to the office.
“So that’s how it’s going to work. This is going to join the whole campus, so every single building will have TVs in the common areas. All classrooms, the TV rooms and common areas in the dorms, the lobbies, all of those buildings are going to be connected onto this one system, so that if we needed to send out a lockdown notice or a shelter-in-place notice or a tornado warning, we can put those out on those TVs and that is going to be accessible to everyone on campus.”
‘LONG TIME IN COMING’
ENCSD advisory board member Gary Farmer said the security enhancements are “a long time in coming.”
“People can come on that campus morning, noon and night since we are a residential school. We have got one person who I think is a police officer, and we don’t have the coverage,” Farmer said.
Farmer said the purpose is not to keep the kids in, but to keep the bad elements out.
“It’s just basic security. You go to any of these other schools for the deaf, they have got a gatehouse with security people, they have got police cars,” Farmer said. “They have got their own police force. They have to because a regular police officer can’t help them out because they can’t sign ... At all these other residential schools, they have police officers that understand the culture and also understand the language and can sign. It is a long time coming.”
The improvements are expected to begin later this year.