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Niskayuna school vote set for Tuesday

The fate of a $4.7 million security project will hang in the balance in the Niskayuna school district when voters go to the polls on Tuesday, Feb. 27.

The project is being touted by district officials as crucial for improved school safety and includes funding for additional lighting, a new security camera system, and the redesign of the main entrances at each of the district's six schools.

The district's administration has also pointed out that due to changes in state aid, local taxpayers won't be stuck paying the tab if the project is approved. Instead, the entire cost would be picked up by state funds; however, voters must still approve bonding the project before it can move forward.

Under security changes envisioned as part of the project, identity card readers using some of the latest in smart chip technology would be installed in the outer doors of all schools. These card readers would make it possible to limit access to building entrances and allow administrators to use a remote system to lock the doors at all schools in the district simultaneously in case of an emergency.

Infrared motion detectors would also be installed in public schools throughout Niskayuna to monitor activity in every building. The detectors would be tied into new digital video cameras as part of an integrated security management system.

Those cameras will placed on both the outside and inside of school buildings to allow a complete 360-degree view of the exterior and a complete view of selected building entrances. The new system would also have the advantage of allowing all video to be stored for up to 30 days.

Changes would be made in the front door entrances of all schools so that main office staff can clearly see everyone coming into the building and better monitor those areas during school hours. And new digital controls that would be paid for under the project will use special sensors to automatically turn off lights and lower the heat in classrooms and offices that aren't being used.

The school board first approved putting the project up for a vote at its Dec. 18 meeting and since then, posted pages of information on the district's Web site which can be reached by going to www.niskayunaschools.org.

Efforts to reach Assistant Superintendent Matthew Bourgeois Tuesday were unsuccessful, but in a prepared statement the district's top administrator has expressed strong support for the proposal.

"We now have a unique opportunity to restore those items that will enhance safety for our students and staff, and increase energy efficiency in our schools without increasing taxes," Superintendent Kevin Baughman said.

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