JOHN DAY – Security cameras on the Grant Union High School campus have been useful – so much so, that a second phase is being installed, according to principal Curt Shelley.

“A lot of schools have gone to this,” said Shelley, who has observed camera systems on campuses he’s visited, beginning with a trip to Umatilla schools four years ago. More recently, when he and other staff traveled to campuses to learn more about the potential merger of the junior high and high school, he said “all the schools had them.”

To go along with the system put in place two years ago that covers the building’s inside space, as well as two in the parking lots, the new cameras at Grant Union will cover much more of the outdoor spaces on campus, Shelley said. He hopes the project will be completed next month.

The recording equipment isn’t meant to take the place of supervision, but will be able to capture images of situations when someone isn’t around, Shelley said. The system covers activity before and after school “when we don’t have a set of eyes around,” he said. “In my opinion, it helps prove innocence, not just guilt.”

“It (the system) helps with the supervision issue and deters negative activity. It records firsthand what actually occurs, although it provides just visual, and not audio,” Shelley said.

“There’s still no substitute for a person, but our eyes can’t be everywhere all the time. It (the camera) is everywhere all the time, although sometimes technological glitches occur,” he said.

Having the system doesn’t solve behavioral problems, but it does help with the time it takes for investigations to be done, said Shelley.

In the past, there had been times when numerous students had to be interviewed, he said. 

“Sometimes stories don’t match. If we have a situation on video, although people’s interpretations are different, generally, as the saying goes, pictures don’t lie,” he said. “The cameras are up for the safety and security of kids and the community.”

The campus is a widely used place, with not only school in session, but indoor and outdoor athletic events. 

Shelley is sure that having the cameras helps to reduce the number of incidents that take place.

According to news reports on the west side of the state, a camera system at Molalla River Middle School recently helped administrators and police quickly identify a suspect in a fake bomb threat, saving the time and trouble of interrupting classes to evacuate and search the school.

The first phase of the camera system at Grant Union cost the district around $12,000, Shelley noted. This second phase is less expensive because the computer is already in place, he said.

Cost of the second part is likely to run about half of the first. In April, the Grant School District 3 board approved payment of $5,305 for purchase of cameras. At the May 11 meeting, they okayed the expenditure of $280 for a monitor.

The district’s custodians have been very capable at installation of the equipment, said Shelley.

Grant School District 3 has sought to use as many outside sources as possible to pay for the system, he said. A fire camp set up at the high school football field two summers ago helped as a source for the first phase. Recently, the U.S. Forest Service was granted permission to use the field and the locker room the week of June 12 for its rappel training program. The income will also be used to offset cost of the equipment, said Shelley.  

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