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Nassau, BOCES unveil high-tech security for schools

John Etzel works the monitors in Westbury as

John Etzel works the monitors in Westbury as officials from Nassau BOCES unveil a Customer Care Center that will instantly provide local law enforcement with valuable information should a violent incident occur at a school building. (April 18, 2013) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County and Nassau BOCES officials unveiled a high-tech security system Thursday that will provide real-time visual and audio monitoring inside school buildings and of school grounds, giving law enforcement the ability to see inside a school when responding to an emergency.

Two of the county's 50-plus public school districts, Roslyn and Plainedge, have signed on to a pilot program for the increased security, with round-the-clock monitoring of buildings and grounds.

BOCES also will have access to digitized floor plans of schools and, in partnership with Nassau County police, will share that information in an emergency. BOCES can provide law enforcement with links to cameras inside and outside the buildings.

County Executive Edward Mangano cut the ribbon at the Nassau BOCES Customer Care Center, located at the Robert E. Lupinskie Center for Curriculum, Instruction and Technology in Westbury.

"We have worked together to advance and improve security in the schools by sharing intelligence in real time that promotes student safety, teacher safety, administrator safety and police officer safety as well," Mangano said.

The BOCES command center was in the works before a gunman shot and killed 20 elementary school students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14. Since then, many Long Island school districts have boosted security, taking steps such as installing video surveillance systems, hiring more security guards and sharply restricting visitors' entry to buildings.

Nassau Police Lt. Kenneth Strigaro, referring to the new center's capabilities, said, "Sharing of information can help the police department potentially deter, detect and/or prevent these type of horrific events that occur, and that's our goal."

The Plainedge and Roslyn schools, as pilot districts, are not yet paying for the program. Proposed monthly charges per building, for a 16-hour shift on weekdays and all day on weekends and holidays, range from $18.95 for basic burglar monitoring to $400 for a "virtual tour."

In addition to the partnership with police, BOCES can provide districts with a variety of security options. Many school systems have security cameras that could be linked to the command center.

Options include incident-based monitoring, in which cameras can be triggered by burglar or fire alarms, and visual inspection of building interiors and exteriors every four hours. Camera operators also can tap into existing audio and communicate remotely with anyone inside the facility, and remotely control lights and door locks.

The system allows monitors to oversee building systems, such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning, during off-school hours.

BOCES officials expect more schools to join.

"It's a perfect fit for schools," Plainedge superintendent Edward Salina Jr. said.

In addition to the security enhancements, Nassau BOCES has built a large, private fiber-optic network called Bo-TIE, which officials said is one of the largest of its kind in the country.

The system gives school districts improved access to Internet and telephone services. Greater bandwidth on the network will allow BOCES to offer other services such as online learning and data backup, said Tom Rogers, Nassau BOCES district superintendent.

Thirty-one districts have connected to the network since February. BOCES officials said participating districts can double existing bandwidth and save at least 15 percent a year on Internet and telephone expenses. There is no cost to districts to participate in Bo-TIE.Rogers said the program is being built only in Nassau County now, but "we have been having conversations with folks in Suffolk County."

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