By JODY SHONKWILER
Exciting things are happening for Bement School District #5. Contractors and staff have been busy all summer preparing for the upcoming school year.
As reported in February, Superintendent Mary Vogt and the school board made the decision to be proactive regarding Alyssa’s Law, which addresses the issue of law enforcement response time when a life-threatening emergency occurs. While Illinois has not yet joined the handful of states that have already passed the law, it is something that will certainly be required soon.
The new law requires all public elementary and secondary schools to be equipped with a silent panic alarm that is directly connected to law enforcement. Currently, a handful of states have passed Alyssa’s Law. It has been introduced in several other states and at the Federal level. Rather than wait for Illinois to pass this law, the district made the decision to proceed with the upgrades for the safety of the students and staff.
In order to be compliant with this upcoming law, it was necessary to upgrade the school’s current systems that could no longer be serviced or repaired due to age. These systems include the intercom and telephone systems and security cameras.
The new intercom system will allow communication between classrooms and buildings. It will resemble a digital clock with a programmable screen to display things like fire evacuations, active shooter, etc. In line with the changes came the need for a new fiber optic internet provider. Metro Communications has replaced Mediacom. The district qualified for significant cost savings through the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology.
A new telephone system will replace the outdated system currently being used and will also increase the capability for communication.
New and additional cameras are being installed to cover previous blind spots and increase visibility. The cameras will cover both the interior and exterior of the campus and will have the ability to share information with law enforcement.
Each classroom is being equipped with the silent panic alarm system per the law’s requirements. A combination of grant monies and district funds paid for these upgrades.
The state will be using the Bement Schools as a “Lighthouse District” or model to guide other districts as they make these upgrades to their buildings. By doing so, Bement received a price break for taking this proactive stance.
According to Superintendent Vogt, these upgrades will be completed in time for students to return to the classroom on August 16.
If you’ve driven by the high school in the past year, you may have noticed some of the windows that were boarded up. The district’s window project was completed in June and the building looks great. This project was funded through the School Maintenance Grant.