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New School Security Cameras Installed



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Security cameras at Newtown’s public schools were replaced over the summer, and the new system began recording 24 hours a day, every day, ahead of the school year’s start.

The new equipment replaced existing cameras at the schools.

When the district’s Director of Security Mark Pompano first started in the district in 2008, he remembered recently, there were roughly 35 analog cameras at Newtown High School. Later, as part of the Newtown High School expansion project, more cameras were added.

“No other school had cameras at the time,” he said.

After the 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a number of companies — like Panasonic Corporation, Sony Corporation, Advanced Security Technologies (AST) of Stratford — offered generous support. Thanks to that support and grants, Mr Pompano said, “We were able to install cameras in all schools.” The total number of cameras used at Newtown’s public schools increased by mid-2014 after months of effort. When the new Sandy Hook School building opened in 2016, the number of district cameras increased again, bringing the total to roughly 495 cameras.

Mr Pompano said the cameras offer equitable coverage at each of Newtown’s schools and provide interior and exterior monitoring.

“As the last five or so years have progressed, the former camera system we had was aging,” Mr Pompano said. It was a server-hosted system, and some analog cameras remained. The servers that stored the information were also aging, he added.

Director of Technology Carmella Amodeo and Mr Pompano then brought the aging technology to the attention of Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue and the Board of Education. They were tasked with “investigating the best of great paths,” Ms Amodeo said.

“We reviewed the upgrade path for the existing system and also reached out to other vendors that were available at the time to make a thorough [best-informed] decision,” Ms Amodeo said.

Eventually, two systems were brought forward as options, demonstrations were offered for the district’s Security and Safety Committee and district administrators, and current users of the systems were interviewed, according to both Mr Pompano and Ms Amodeo. A cost analysis was inspected, too.

“It really came down to the quality and usability of the system,” Mr Pompano shared. “It just so happens that Verkada, which is a cloud-based system, is simple to use [with] a very clear picture, wider picture, [and] very little training curve.”

According to the district’s Business Director Ron Bienkowski, the equipment cost $484,886, the installation cost $79,200, and the lease finance over five years is set at 2.65 percent with an annual payment of $124,932.

Mr Pompano explained that authorized users — security and building administrators — are able to pull up images from the cameras from wherever needed.

Installation began on the afternoon of June 13 “as kids were going out the door,” Mr Pompano said, reflecting on the last day of the 2018-19 school year. Alarms By Precision of Monroe installed the new cameras over the summer.

The only thing that slowed down the installation, Mr Pompano said, were bees. Many exterior cameras had bees nests situated on or near them. By August 16, the last camera was installed.

All of the cameras were replaced, and Mr Pompano is thrilled with how user-friendly the new system is. It saves videos for the same length of time as the last system, and Mr Pompano said authorized users can switch between camera views seamlessly.

“The [Newtown] Police Department has access... to all schools and cameras live and in play-back mode,” Mr Pompano added.

Since the district started working with Verkada, Ms Amodeo said the company has been responsive and supportive. The district has a ten-year warranty on the system.

“We’re happy with it,” Mr Pompano said, adding that after the first week of school, feedback from authorized users was positive.

Newtown Public Schools Director of Security Mark Pompano, standing bottom left, oversees installation of a camera at Newtown High School over the summer. —Ron Bienkowksi photo
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