Brick voters will decide whether to allow the township’s school district to borrow $12,580,000 for security upgrades at all its schools, including physical barriers and software systems that officials say would protect students and staff from security threats, including active shooter scenarios.
Following the February school shooting in Parkland, Fla. that claimed 17 lives, the district consulted with security experts and decided on a number of items they say could prevent, or significantly limit the scope of, school shootings and similar security threats.
The question will be placed on the November general election ballot instead of the initially-proposed Oct. 2 vote. Board President Stephanie Wohlrab said holding a separate vote would have cost an additional $54,000.
The referendum would roughly translate to an increase in taxes of about $11 per year for an owner of an average-valued home in Brick. If approved, the district would borrow the funding and repay it over the course of 25 years. The funding would provide for:
- Interior renovations at several schools to provide secured vestibules.
- Video surveillance systems that cover all areas of school facilities, including outdoor areas.
- A “situational awareness” technology program known as CLASS (which stands for Crisis Lockdown Alert Status System), which would allow doors to be centrally locked if an intruder were to enter a school building, integrated alerts to police and first responders, panic buttons and strobe lights and an interface paging and mass notification system.
- “Hall Pass” software, a central visitor monitoring system in all 12 schools which would require visitors to scan a government-issued ID upon entry which would be checked against a national criminal database. The software would also print “no-ink” thermal badges and maintain records on every person who enters a school building.
“These school buildings were not built with the expectation that we were going to have to protect our students from active shooters,” said Acting Superintendent Dennis Filippone, explaining the renovations and physical upgrades that would be needed to secure entry and egress points.
An architect met with principals from each school to ascertain needs, which added up to the figure represented in the referendum proposal.
“That is certainly not the kind of money we will be able to fit in our operating budget,” Filippone said.
Approval of a tax increase on top of the 4.3 percent increase of the district’s operating budget may be a tough pill for voters to swallow, officials admitted.
“This district does not have a very favorable history of approving referendums,” said Filippone, however the state would fund about 40 percent of the project, and additional grants could come in time.
“There are both federal and state laws that have been introduced at the federal level and in our state assembly that will provide assistance to the schools,” he added.
The request for the security funding comes just days after a student made a threat at Brick Memorial High School, leading one parent to endorse the measure.
“Brick is going to be the next Parkland if you don’t do something,” said Anne Anderson.