By MATTHEW MEYER | Reporter
Multiple scarring vandalism incidents have created a sense of urgency surrounding security issues at Palisades Charter High School, and the school’s governing board has approved plans this month to create a form of virtual fence around the campus.
The new intrusion detection system would build on Pali High’s already extensive CCTV camera network to build a surveillance perimeter around the school. Motion detectors enabled overnight or on weekends would instantly trigger an alarm upon sensing an intruder.
The alarm could have immediate visual or audible indicators on-site, such as a flashing light or siren, and would also notify a monitoring station off-site.
Monitors would then use the school’s cameras to determine whether a police or private security response is warranted—or if a raccoon has simply wandered onto campus.
Such a system may have helped minimize the extent of a November vandalism spree in which two masked figures severely damaged a classroom and sprayed homophobic slurs across the campus. The roughly two-hour attack went undetected until the next morning.
Previous overnight vandalism has ranged from expensive—like an October incident that damaged the school’s pool—to disturbing, including extensive racist graffiti in 2016.
“I urge the board from the bottom of my shoes to understand the impact of vandalism on our student body,” parent representative Robert Rene said at the December meeting of the school’s Board of Trustees. “From a stress-related and student perspective, it is among the most debilitating things to our kids.”
Director of Operations Don Parcell, whose department has been investigating ways to improve campus security, concurred, adding that he’s heard from school employees who are equally disheartened.
“It’s not just students,” he told the board. “Faculty is impacted by this … the psychological impact does have a cost.”
But security measures have a price of their own.
Since the most recent vandalism incident, the school has employed overnight security on an emergency basis—a 24/7 service that would cost an estimated $85,000 if it were extended annually.
By contrast, Parcell presented the board with an estimate from Alarm-24, an affiliate company of their new security guard service, which placed the installation fee for a virtual perimeter at about $41,000. Monitoring services would run an additional $12,000 annually.
“If you can make the investment to get it installed, then in year two, you’re basically paying $12,000 a year instead of $85,000 a year,” Parcell told the board.
Most representatives were receptive to the concept, triggering a 3-1 vote (with multiple abstentions) in favor of pursuing competing bids and selecting the best perimeter monitoring option.
Administrators were optimistic that the technology could be installed as early as Pali’s winter break.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.