The Sunnyside Unified School District will spend about $1.1 million this fall overhauling its security system.
When the transition is complete — anticipated to be at the end of September — the district will cut ties with its current private security service and reduce the number of hours commissioned police officers are stationed on campuses.
In their place will be a district-operated security department complete with new uniforms for staff, new vehicles, security stations at most of the district’s middle schools and a video-monitoring system that will provide access to about 750 video cameras to be stationed across the district and on school buses.
Sunnyside’s Governing Board voted 4-0 on Aug. 13 to create the department following a districtwide security audit led by board member Bobby Garcia, a retired Tucson Police Department officer.
The upgrades will include video-camera monitoring at the security stations at many of the schools in addition to the central video-monitoring station. While the district already has many security cameras in operation, the largest expenditure under the new plan is about $800,000 for additional video equipment.
District officials say at least four of its five middle schools will receive the new security stations, which are likely to be small Mobile Mini trailers equipped with air conditioning and technology to monitor video cameras on school property.
The district will hire a security coordinator and two additional security staff members so it can create a night shift for security personnel, said Assistant Superintendent Eugenia Favela.
There are already security stations at the district’s two high schools, but elementary schools will not receive the stations.
Instead, elementary- school employees will receive training from the Police Department on how to react to emergencies, Garcia said.
Sunnyside made the changes in response to the incidents of school violence that have occurred across the country, as well as a desire to align itself with current safety trends, Garcia said.
“Times have changed. We’re into a different era,” he said.
“Like an airport, you can’t walk up to the gate anymore. That’s what school districts need to do.”
The new security department is expected to cost about $1.1 million, although the exact costs haven’t been finalized.
Most of the money will come from an $88 million bond voters approved in 2011, Favela said.
About $1 million of the bond money was allocated for security upgrades.
Sunnyside expects to spend about $228,000 of its own money for items such as the new vehicles, which will include district emblems, black-and-white uniforms and the new staff positions.
District officials expect that phasing out of the current security contract and reducing police officers’ hours will save about $145,000, which will be reallocated to help pay for the vehicles, security staff and uniforms.