Auburn Union school board buys blinds, not cameras

No surveillance for now, but bandwidth upgrades approved
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
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The Auburn Union school board chose not to purchase a surveillance system on Wednesday, but opted instead for window blinds and network bandwidth upgrades.

The district’s board of trustees had postponed a decision on security cameras at its meeting in January to more extensively review proposals.

Following a crisis training session at the district office last week, an exercise usually reserved for teachers and administrators on school campuses, Board President Daniel Berlant said the board decided to make a different call for school safety.

“We made some other decisions that we felt were more life safety-related, especially after Sandy Hook,” he said. “Not all of our classrooms have blinds or some type of way to block the view into the classroom, and that’s a law enforcement recommendation … so we wanted to be able to add blinds to a number of our classrooms, and we felt that money was better spent to deal with that life safety risk versus security cameras to deter vandalism.”

The board gave direction to go out for bids on the blinds immediately. Berlant said an initial bid to install blinds where necessary on all five of the district’s campuses put the cost at about $20,000, due to the irregular size and shape of many of the school windows.

He said a decision about school security cameras is on hold indefinitely, and the board hopes the district’s alarm systems will ward off vandalism for now.

The board also approved an upgrade to the Local Area Network (LAN) internet service between the Placer County Office of Education and the district hub at E.V. Cain Middle School. Berlant said network bandwidth will soon increase from 10 megabytes per second to 100, allowing schools to facilitate more internet-connective devices without slowing the connection to impractical speeds.

“It allows us to permit more computers, wireless devices or even our own telephones to be using the network all at one time,” he said. “As we’re using more and more computers in the classroom, iPads in the classroom, it’s really slowed down our internet ability, because the infrastructure’s just not there.”

Berlant added that planning ahead is crucial when it comes to technology, and the bandwidth upgrade is just a quick fix in advance of expensive server upgrades to come.

“The district will be putting together a full technology plan, and that’s what we’ve asked to have done to start looking at how long and how much it will be to replace some of the systems and possibly the servers in our schools,” he said.

The bandwidth upgrade will raise the cost of the district’s current LAN contract with AT&T from $17,640 per year to $25,560 - an increase of $7,920.

Chief Business Officer Monica Williams said some of that purchase will be eligible for rebates through the e-rate system, a federal discount program for schools and libraries. She guessed the upgrades themselves would be done within a month, while the eventual server upgrades will be a “major undertaking” that has yet to be scheduled.

“We contacted AT&T (on Thursday), and it’s something they have to do at their end, and we are hoping it’s not going to take more than a few weeks,” she said. “We’re going to analyze how it’s improved things … while we are also looking at funding opportunities for other technology upgrades.”