School invests in security cameras

FAIRMONT — This year, there are 20 new cameras at both Fairmont Elementary School and Fairmont Jr./Sr. High School, bringing the total to 103 in the elementary school and 120 at the high school.

Each camera costs about $1,000. Footage is stored on a file server and is retrievable for about a maximum of a week, which is why Superintendent Joe Brown says it is important to report anything that happens to the school as soon as possible.

“Do not wait a day,” he said. “Contact the school district with concerns right away.”

There are some officials who have access to a live feed. They include the school resource officer, the dean of students, the custodians, junior high principal and the tech department. However, no one is watching the live feed 24/7.

“When a parent or a student has any concern, they have every right to bring it forward to teachers, administrators, school board members or myself,” Brown said. “My hope is that any parent that comes into this office feels like they’re listened to. I think that any parent that comes into my office sees that I take unbelievable notes and that I always follow through. I want people to know that they’re listened to.”

Brown said there are now more cameras in the gyms, cafeterias and all of the hallways.

“From a security standpoint, I just want to remind the community of the cameras we have,” he said, explaining that not only is the school open during the day to students, but that it is open to the community after hours for various events.

There are no cameras in bathrooms or locker rooms, but there are cameras near the entrances so it can be seen who went in and at what time, in case something happens, or if something is stolen.

Exterior cameras were added to the high school, near the green house. There are also cameras that focus on the propane tank. While there are not cameras in the classrooms, there is an exception in the high school vocational classrooms.

“The rooms that there could be safety issues in, auto mechanics, welding, construction trades, those rooms all have two cameras in them,” Brown said. “We put those in a few years ago and noticed two things: the accidents have gone down and no equipment has been lost.”

Brown acknowledged that, overall, the district has good kids, faculty and staff. However, he knows kids are not perfect and that they make mistakes from time to time.

Also fairly new is the addition of cameras on all the school buses.

“We’ve added four cameras on each school bus,” Brown said. “These cameras are unique in that they’re not only cameras, but they pick up audio too. That’s really helped us when people have concerns on the bus. In the past it was ‘he said, she said,’ but now we can listen to the audio, watch the video and see what actually happened. I want the bus driver to be driving, looking forward and focused on driving safely, not to be looking back at the kids. That’s why we have cameras.”

Brown said a deal was made in which the district paid for half the cost of the cameras while Minnesota Motor Bus paid for half. Cameras have been in all school buses since the beginning of last school year.

Brown, who says he is a big believer in “cost avoidance,” said, “The investment that we’ve spent has been good. No major acts of violence or vandalism have happened. I want our district to be physically and psychologically safe.”