Over the summer break, the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District (PRJUSD) is upgrading its surveillance system to enhance safety at Paso Robles High School (PRHS).
They will also be adding vape sensors to deter students from vaping.
On-campus surveillance cameras are nothing new at PRHS but an upgrade was due.
“There are a lot of improvements both in quality, they’ll be able to see in light versus darkness, but these also have facial recognition,” explained Scott Buller, PRJUSD IT Director.
Buller said students struggled coming back to campus after COVID-19 lockdowns.
“In the entire state and nation there have been reports that a lot of students have increased need for social and emotional support,” added Buller. “Sometimes that comes out as acts of violence or vandalism.”
Recent incidents at PRHS shed light on the need for high-tech cameras. Events such as the one on Jan. 7, 2022.
“Somebody had an umbrella and they were carrying it in a way that might’ve looked like a gun and someone reported there was an individual with a gun, so of course we put the school on lockdown out of caution, was able to use camera systems to identify that it was that exact threat,” said Buller. “We actually had some delays because of some cameras that were not working.”
Back on Jan. 11, 2022, the district approved the installation of Verkada surveillance cameras and vape sensors at PRHS.
On June 7, 2022, the board expanded the project to include Lewis Middle School and Flamson Middle School.
Having this equipment on the three campuses will cost $315,869.57.
“One of the great things that has come out of the pandemic is increased funding for social and emotional support, so it helped provide funding for the camera system,” said Buller.
A decision that gives family members some peace of mind.
“Kids are having behavioral problems, so it’s hard for the teacher to teach when you just have one student that’s non-compliant,” said Janet Sutton, who has a grandchild attending PRHS.
Especially after recent mass shootings such as the one in Uvalde, Texas where 19 children and two teachers died.
Salvador Echeverria said he is glad cameras are being installed at his daughter’s high school. He said it's very sad to see parents’ hearts crushed after losing a child and he doesn’t want that to happen here.
The cameras will also have the capacity to identify license plate numbers.
“The main quad, at vehicle entries and exits and areas where the district might struggle to get visibility during lunch breaks,” explained Buller when asked about the location of these cameras.
Vape sensors, not cameras, will be installed inside bathrooms.
“It’s actually an environmental sensor, so it is measuring a lot of things from air quality, humidity, temperature and vaping, said Buller.
This, after an uptick in vaping on campus.
“Really not here to play 'got you' or to find bad behavior, it is here to identify the students that need that extra support whether it be with nicotine addiction, with vaping or just behavior that needs addressing,” said Buller.
The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District is planning to install these devices over the summer at Paso Robles High School. Then, they will move on to placing them at Lewis Middle School and Flamson Middle School.
Regarding privacy, the district said the information obtained from these cameras and sensors will not be available to the public, only to school security staff and administration.
If needed for a police investigation, then it will be shared with law enforcement.