Philomath School District, Philomath Elementary School aerial
The Philomath School District Office and Philomath Elementary School (File photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

An upgraded public address system and an expanded security camera network appears to be on the horizon for the Philomath School District.

The PA system was installed in the 1990s and starting to fail. According to a report distributed to School Board members at their Monday night meeting, the systems are used to send announcements, class bell schedules, emergency drills and so on.

Upgrades are needed at Clemens Primary School, Philomath Elementary School and Philomath Middle School.

“The current systems cannot be repaired due to the age and scarcity of parts and so replacement is the only option,” Mark Neville, network/system administrator, said. “Without these systems, the schools would be limited in their communication abilities in the event of an emergency.”

The new system will retrofit with the components already installed and provide future expandability, he added.

Susan Halliday, superintendent of schools, said the intercom and bell system upgrades are important for health and safety reasons “to make sure we have now and in the future, more reliable communication to be able to reach out to classes, have classrooms be able to reach the office and more importantly, have the integration to be able to look at any of our security protocols — emergency alarms and things like that that we can look at melding together within that same process.”

Neville said the systems will include emergency call buttons added to each classroom as a safety feature. And the system will also integrate with other systems, such as door badges and security cameras.

Besides the PA upgrades, the district also expressed the need to expand the security camera system.

“The system is now living beyond its normal lifespan,” Neville said in a report to the board. “The camera system was purchased from Costco as a stop gap to the vandalism that was happening at the high school years ago. The system was never meant as a permanent solution and is quickly becoming unmanageable.”

Jennifer Kessel, systems administrator, said 63 cameras would be a part of the new system, double what the district currently has in place.

“That doubling is probably a good starting point and I would expect more in the future,” Kessel said. “We’re covering all of the areas that we want to cover districtwide — that would be the district office as well as more outside cameras with the fields and with our technology building, maintenance buildings. This just really expands the capabilities of providing a very safe campus in all of our areas.”

The board approved the safety plan, which includes upgrades to the PA systems with camera systems not to exceed $138,400. 

At the request of Halliday, the board approved a Student Investment Account budget adjustment to redirect $106,955 in funding toward those intercom and bell system upgrades. Lower amounts were budgeted in the areas of classified instructional support, student transportation and Chromebook purchases.

The total amount available in the SIA fund is $417,925. The proposed adjustment also added more funding into mental health support. A few other categories remained unchanged.

Halliday said she sees the budget adjustment as a one-time expense to take care of an important need.

“This is an expense that we need to be able to try and find a way to cover,” she said,” and it’s allowable within these funds.”

In other news from the April 19 meeting:

• The board issued a proclamation in recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week and urged the community to also express appreciation “to our teachers for their dedication and devotion to their work.”

• PHS teacher David Dunham gave a report on activities of the Associated Student Body and also made comments as a representative of the Philomath Education Association.

• Oregon School Employees Association representative Ryan Kildea provided a report.

• Personnel moves as reported by the district include moving Renee Mason from long-term substitute to temporary fifth-grade teacher; resignations/retirements of Philomath Elementary counselor Jill Williams and Kings Valley Charter School instructional assistant Katie Ross; and the hiring of assistant baseball coach Nicholas Dudek.

• Halliday in her superintendent’s report covered various topics, including COVID-19 metrics, status of athletics, discussions involving considerations to return students for additional time in school over the final five to six weeks, current COVID numbers on the district’s campuses, a proposed budget adjustment with Student Investment Account funds and a conversation with the city about easements (separate story to published on COVID-19 numbers).

• Bill Mancuso, director of finance and operations, gave a brief report as the district heads into the last quarter of the fiscal year. Mancuso said efforts are being made to conserve as much money as possible heading into the next fiscal year. More information on financials will be coming to the board following Budget Committee meetings.

• The board listened to Philomath High and Philomath Academy graduation plans for June 5 (separate story to be published).

• The board approved 2021-22 and 2022-23 calendars to begin classes after Labor Day. This coming academic year, the first day of school will be Sept. 7-8, depending on grade level, and the last day of school will be June 16. The calendar also shows graduation ceremonies for June 6 for Philomath Academy and June 7 for Philomath High School. The academic school year is 173 days. The board’s decision reflected results of a parent survey that had been done their calendar preference.

• Facilities Director Joey DiGiovannangelo shared his vision for long-term facilities planning. The board showed support for DiGiovannangelo’s ideas, which includes the formation of a committee.

• The board approved a consent agenda, which includes out-of-state travel for Philomath High’s boys basketball team to Ketchikan, Alaska, for a tournament. The girls basketball team also plans to compete and approval is contingent on the board seeing needed paperwork.

• The board approved co-op agreements in baseball and softball with Alsea High School.

• After some discussion, the board approved a resolution that directs the district to administer statewide assessments only to those students and parents who request participation.

Following is a list of votes taken by the Philomath School Board at its April 19 meeting:
• To approve Version 2 (post Labor Day start) of the 2021-22 and 2022-23 Philomath School District calendars. Motion: Kildea. Seconded: Gerding. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Gerding, Grube, Kildea, Niemann, Skinkis).
• To approve the proposed safety plan, including upgrades to the PA systems, and camera systems not to exceed $138,400. Motion: Kildea. Seconded: Skinkis. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Gerding, Grube, Kildea, Niemann, Skinkis).
• To approve proposed Student Investment Account budget adjustments as presented by the superintendent. Motion: Gerding. Seconded: Grube. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Gerding, Grube, Kildea, Niemann, Skinkis).
• To approve a consent agenda that included the March 15 School Board minutes, check listing for March and boys basketball travel to Ketchikan, Alaska, with a stipulation that the board see completed paperwork for girls basketball travel to the same tournament . Motion: Gerding. Seconded: Kildea. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Gerding, Grube, Kildea, Niemann, Skinkis).
• To approve cooperative agreements in softball and baseball with Alsea High School. Motion: Gerding. Seconded: Grube. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Gerding, Grube, Kildea, Niemann, Skinkis).
• To approve Resolution No. 2021-05 to approve changes to the administration of Oregon statewide assessment for fiscal year 2020-21. Motion: Kildea. Seconded: Skinkis. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Gerding, Grube, Kildea, Niemann, Skinkis).