By Terry Dean
Oak Park District 97 is considering installing outdoor security cameras at its eight elementary schools.
In all, 79 cameras costing roughly $79,000 would be installed at the schools, with some buildings using more than others. A string of recent incidents, including graffiti and vandalism to some of the buildings, prompted the need for better outdoor surveillance, according to D97 administrators.
Brooks and Julian middle schools have had security cameras since 2010, including at the main entrances. The elementary school cameras would all be outside.
When middle school cameras were first proposed, some parents were concerned about privacy issues for their students. Some teachers also had concerns about privacy regarding their classrooms. The D97 board drafted a policy to govern how the cameras will be used. D97 officials said the policy, as well as administrative procedures will oversee the use of elementary school cameras.
The cameras, like those at the middle schools, will be digital devices on a continuous 24-hour recording. No one will be monitoring screens, says D97 board President Bob Spatz.
But if an incident occurs, the proper staff, as well as Oak Park Police if they're called, will have access to the recordings, says D97 Supt. Albert Roberts. At the middle schools, only principals and assistant principals have access to recordings.
Roberts added that the district is examining the cost-effectiveness of the current proposal of 79 cameras. Five schools — Beye, Whittier, Lincoln, Longfellow and Mann — are slated to have at least 10 cameras. The remaining schools — Irving, Hatch and Holmes — each will have seven to nine devices. The devices would be on a secured web-based server allowing police direct access.
The board and administration spent months discussing middle school cameras before agreeing to install them. Fifty-eight devices were installed in hallways, stairwells and entrances, lunchrooms and gyms.
The D97 board and administration discussed the elementary school cameras at the board's July 9, meeting.