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Posted: May 5, 2009 10:17 p.m.
Updated: May 6, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Local junior high and high schools will soon be the focus of video surveillance in an effort by the William S. Hart Union High School District to catch vandalism and monitor school campuses during times of crisis, a district official said Tuesday.

District officials now are finishing the installation of computer equipment before the cameras become operational in June, Hart district spokeswoman Pat Willett said.

Hart district board members will discuss a new board policy involving video surveillance during Wednesday's meeting.

Cameras have already been installed in all Hart district schools to overlook common areas like parking lots, walkways, fields and stadiums.

Cameras will not be placed in private locations such as restrooms, locker rooms and any other on-campus changing rooms, Willett said. And they have not been installed in classrooms, although the policy that comes before the board on Wednesday allows for it.

"We don't really envision doing that," she said.

There will be no cameras at Academy of the Canyons and Early College High School as both those schools are at College of the Canyons, Willett said.

The video surveillance system can be expanded later, she said.

Willett would not specify how many cameras now overlook school campuses. However, the district will install signs notifying students and staff that surveillance cameras are in use.

The cameras can be monitored from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station and from password-protected computers at the district office or at the individual school sites, Willett said.

"A principal could conceivably pull up the cameras on his home computer," Willett said.

In the event of a campus crisis, local sheriff's deputies would be able to use the cameras to monitor it from the Sheriff's Station, Willett said.

The video feeds from the cameras will be recorded so that school administrators will be able to play back segments in case of instances like graffiti and vandalism.

The concept of video surveillance on the junior-high and high-school campuses has already been run by parent and student groups, Willett said.

"We haven't heard any feedback that people were concerned that they didn't like the idea that we were watching," Willett said. "They're more interested in knowing that the campuses are secure."

The U.S. Department of Justice awarded the Hart district and Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station a grant worth $249,626, which will help pay for the project. Hart board members signed off on video surveillance in 2007.


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