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Security After Sandy Hook, Part Two

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By Steven Sandberg

SHADY COVE, Ore. — A Southern Oregon school is now the first in the country with a new, high tech system to protect students. The technology is designed to allow officers to respond faster and keep kids safer during an emergency like a school shooting, and those involved say it could be a model for schools across the country.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and School District 9 have teamed up to install the system into Shady Cove School, to connect the school to first responders. Classrooms are now equipped with emergency alert boxes, which can be used to alert authorities. During an emergency, a teacher can reach over and quickly hit a button, which activates a camera in the classroom.

The same system activates at the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and dispatch center, and provides officers with real-time information. They will be able to see the situation, find out where inside the school the button was pushed, and get information on how to respond.

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters says that’s crucial in an active shooter scenario, because it gives officers immediate information they can use to protect students, teachers, and themselves.

“Time is lives. And that’s what we’re trying to do: save more lives through technology,” Winters said.

The system was created by Future Concepts, a Los Angeles technology company. Designers say when officers arrive at a school, they’ll know exactly which building, which hallway, and which classroom to respond to.

The system also allows officers on scene and in the command center to directly control parts of the situation. Colored lights above the classroom doors will use a color-coded system to direct officers, students and teachers to safe places. Officers also have the ability to remotely control door locks inside the school, which designed said can be used as “man traps,” to lock an intruder alone in a room.

Teachers at Shady Cove said the system also eliminates any concerns about the cameras being used to spy on teachers. The system and cameras cannot be activated until a teacher pushes the button, so no one can look in unless there’s an emergency.

Shady Cove School is the first testing ground for the school security system. It’s a rural school with a wide campus, and Winters says that made it a good fit for the technology. Teachers and staff at the school said it’s a project that could be a game-changer when it comes to school security.

“Having the cameras in the classroom where they can see what’s going on, cameras outside where they can give us direction if need be, we’re awfully excited,” said math teacher Dick Kendrick.

“We’re hoping it prevents emergencies from becoming tragedies,” said Tiffanie Lambert, Shady Cove Principal.

Oregon Representative Greg Walden toured the school while the system was being installed on Memorial Day. He said if the system proves to be effective, it’s a model that could be looked at across the country.

“This is really innovating,” Walden said. “Linking new technologies to law enforcement directly, making schools safer for students, for teachers, for administrators.”

So far, the middle school classrooms at Shady Cove have been upgraded. The rest of the campus will be completed this summer. This type of system would normally cost about $100,000 to install in a school, but Sheriff Winters said the entire system at Shady Cove is being paid for through drug forfeiture money. Adroit Construction and Precision Electric also donated their time for free on Memorial Day to install the technology.