The Mountain View Whisman School District plans to install security cameras on its campuses next summer and is set to hold meetings in the coming months to get community input.
Adding video surveillance to the district's schools is expected to cost just shy of $3 million, funded by the $259 million Measure T bond, which voters approved in 2020.
"Video surveillance is a deterrent to destructive activities and can help the district identify perpetrators," Chief Business Officer Rebecca Westover told the district's Board of Trustees at an Oct. 21 meeting.
According to Westover, the district has faced a range of security concerns in the past, such as teenagers and adults gaining unauthorized access to classrooms after hours, including homeless people sleeping in rooms, stolen electronics and property destruction, including broken windows and graffiti.
Racial epithets have been tagged on Graham Middle School's campus, Westover said. Last year, racist vandalism was also discovered at Imai Elementary School, which was named Huff Elementary School at the time.
Board member Laura Blakely said that although the $3 million price tag is a big number, she supports the move to install cameras, adding that the community has supported security improvements as part of the district's bond campaigns.
"Some of the vandalism was just shocking and horrible, I mean just really reprehensible," Blakely said. "I'm hopeful that something like this will prevent that from happening and/or at least allow us to find the people that did it and take appropriate action."
Board President Devon Conley said she also believes installing video surveillance will save the district money in the long run, because there won't be as much property damage to repair.
No members of the public addressed the board about the security project at last week's meeting.
The cameras will monitor parking lots and public areas of campus. That could include fields, hallways between classes, courtyards and eating areas, Public Information Officer Shelly Hausman said in an email. Currently there are no cameras in areas of the campus with students and only "very limited video surveillance," in non-student areas like storage and maintenance facilities, Hausman said.
If all goes according to plan, the district intends to install the security camera systems next summer, although Westover said the district is seeing a slowdown in the timeline for procuring materials.
Ahead of installation, the district's board will need to adopt a policy governing how the security footage will be used, what signage will be in place and other items, Westover said. The board plans to vote on such a policy in January.
Before then, the district is scheduling a series of community meetings to get input on the project, as well as having individual schools collect feedback. More information about these meetings will be released soon, Hausman said.
The district plans to put up posters on school campuses announcing the meetings, as well as release information through newsletters and social media posts and inform the city of Mountain View, Westover said. Conley suggested also reaching out to neighborhood associations.
The board originally approved the installation of security cameras as part of the Measure T project list in September 2020 and then signed off on a contract with the company Paladin in July 2021 to advise the district on camera placement, software selection and data security, Westover said.
Trustee Chris Chiang said last week that he favors installing cameras, but is concerned about the cost and wants to see a more detailed spending breakdown at a future meeting.
"I know our first responsibility is to make sure kids are safe. I'm also mindful that our schools had operated for a long time without these things as well," Chiang said. "Safety is also a perception as much as it is a responsibility, so I am eager to learn more about how the spending was broken down."