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Canton students, staff start year with upraded building security

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CANTON - A host of security measures, including new entrance doors, a high-tech camera system and electronic lock-down equipment, have been installed at Canton Central School District’s building complex in time for the new school year.

Staff returned Tuesday and students start today at public school districts throughout St. Lawrence County.

The measures were part of the district’s $15 million capital project, which is nearing completion. Replacement of the boiler system was the main component of the two-year project.

“Every exterior door has been replaced and linked into the security system,” School Superintendent William A. Gregory said. “Besides improving safety, the new doors are energy efficient.”

In the high school, new doors were installed near stairwells to make the building in compliance with fire codes. The double-paned glass doors will allow officials to close off portions of the building in the event of a fire or other emergency.

With a switch of a button, Operations Director Scott Sanderson will be able to close and lock interior hallway doors and exterior doors. New phone and fire alarm systems have also been added to improve safety.

Several additional motion-sensor video cameras have been installed inside the building and the parking lot.

“We had cameras in the school before, but this is a major upgrade,” Mr. Sanderson said. “We now have an enormous amount of cameras.”

The new system also alerts school officials via an email or a text message if any of the 56 perimeter doors are open. In the past a custodian would have to check all the doors to make sure they were closed and locked.

“The camera will record the event. I can see exactly who and why the door was propped open,” Mr. Sanderson said.

Many of the upgrades took place in McKenney Middle School, where the open-style classrooms have been replaced with individualized rooms that each have their own door and lock. New flooring, walls and lockers were installed in the classrooms, which are also equipped with Smartboards and whiteboards. The middle school also houses two computer labs.

Mr. Gregory said the new classroom design is safer and more effective than the previous set-up.

“This is a dramatic improvement for security. It also provides a more focused learning environment,” he said.

The girls’ and boys’ locker rooms next to the swimming pool have been completely remodeled with new toilet stalls and showers.

Carla K. Wenworth, a middle school physical education teacher and coach, said students have responded well to the improved facilities.

“It’s a nicer atmosphere. The kids take care of it and respect it. They have pride in it,” she said.

Although seventh graders will return to the middle school today,eighth graders will continue to be housed at Hugh C. Williams High School.

Mr. Gregory said the ventilation system that was previously in the hallway is now part of the classrooms and the system interferes with instruction because it’s too noisy.

“It was distracting enough that the teachers brought it to our attention. We want to get it corrected and we want to make sure the air flow is proper,” he said.

District officials are meeting with members of SEI Design Group, the architect firm that handled the project, to determine how the problem can be resolved. Eighth graders are expected to move back to the middle school next year.

Mr. Gregory said maintaining school buildings is an ongoing process and next summer the district will be working on another five-year building survey to determine the next priorities.

“It’s never complete. It’s a continuing maintenance plan,” he said.

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