$3.3M security camera upgrade targets Dayton school safety

Dayton Public Schools is spending $3.3 million to upgrade video cameras in all 27 of its schools after current cameras have failed to capture on-campus incidents with enough detail to identify suspects.

In May 2016, a 7-year-old girl was stabbed during playground recess at World of Wonder school, and camera footage was not clear enough to help police identify the assailant.

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“Throughout my time on this board, probably the most emotional instance for me was the stabbing at World of Wonder,” DPS board member John McManus said this week.

This year’s legal battle with the Ohio High School Athletic AssociationOHSAA over Dunbar basketball eligibility started with questions aboutof who participated in a January on-court brawl. But security cameras in Dunbar’s gym didn’t provide complete coverage, leading to mistakes in identifying players. Dunbar was eventually banned from the 2019 postseason.

Associate Superintendent Shelia Burton said the district will increase the number of cameras in all 27 schools while upgrading to newer technology that will provide dramatically clearer images.

“The cameras we have now are limited,” Burton said. “We can’t get many angles. … With these new cameras, we can get more of a 360-degree view, and the quality is much, much better.”

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DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said the current cameras are more than a decade old, as old as the buildings themselves.

“The technology in our buildings is wearing out. It is an old technology,” she said, stressing the importance of keeping security systems up to date.

“They are community properties, a place for the community to come and the place where we educate our students,” she said.

The new equipment should be set up by the end of the school year, Lolli said.

“We’re going from analog to digital, and the quality is just phenomenally, vastly different,” said DPS executive director of safety and security Richard Wright. “We’ve had issues with clarity and being able to identify individuals. This will help us better identify the subjects we have on video for information we can turn over to Dayton Police or other law enforcement.”

Lolli said school officials have been working on the project for months, traveling to schools in Columbus and elsewhere to compare systems.

The contract is with Graybar Electric.

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Burton said the new cameras will also increase video storage capacity significantly in case DPS has to go back and look at previous video, calling the system “as state-of-the-art as we can afford.”

Added Wright, “It’s a move in the right direction for students; to make sure students and staff are safe.”

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