Facility Security

Bay District Schools Gets an A+ in Student Safety

Over the summer security personnel at the Bay District Schools in Panama City, Florida, are hard at work making more campuses safer for when students return. Beginning in 2010 and following an alarming firearm incident at a board meeting, the commitment to upgrade security infrastructure throughout district schools continues.

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In an ongoing program to expand the security and surveillance infrastructure at Bay District Schools, several more elementary schools are currently getting outfitted with IP security. Enhanced safety of students and faculty is an ongoing commitment at Bay District Schools in Panama City, Florida.

Over 7 years ago, school officials at Bay District Schools realized the need to expand and upgrade its camera system to IP video technology. The district already had analogue video equipment from Panasonic and decided to take a hybrid Panasonic solution in its transition to IP.

While the initial upgrade was under way, the district made headline news when on December 14, 2010, a gunman opened fire at a school board meeting. Even though he was at close range, he missed shooting anyone and no board members were hurt. District Safety & Security Chief, Mike Jones, exchanged fire with the gunman wounding him. The gunman turned his gun on himself with a fatal shot.

Jones protects more than 25,000 students across 42 campuses throughout Bay County. His team started installing Panasonic network recorders and a variety of Panasonic IP cameras one school at a time. The initial process was slow and obtaining funding for the project was a challenge.

“We had already started upgrading existing systems and adding cameras before the shooting happened,” said Chief Jones. “Prior to the shooting there wasn’t a lot of support from the public or even some board members for more cameras. After the shooting, my superintendent told me, keep going and don’t slow down.”

From that moment on it was Jones’s and the school district’s mission to make sure all of its schools were more secure. Supported by funding from the Department of Homeland Security, Jones starts installing systems in the district’s middle and high school campuses.

During the next phase of the program, Jones and his team focus on the schools with highest incidents, extend surveillance capabilities to exterior locations like parking lots, and expand mobile monitoring capabilities. Staff members in the middle and high schools are given access to cameras from their PCs and are also able to access feeds remotely from their smartphones or tablets.

All camera feeds are brought back to the district’s network operations center (NOC), in Panama City. In addition to camera feeds from campuses across the district, operators are able to locate all school buses in the district via GPS tracking. The NOC also includes a portal to the sheriff’s office that can be used in the event of an emergency, allowing the department to quickly access live camera feeds for real-time situational awareness.

Now as part of a $1 million budget allocation, the school district is beefing up security in several more elementary schools starting with Lucille Moore Elementary. Currently, the district oversees more than 1,000 security cameras, according to Jones. They are working to install about 150 more in the elementary schools as well as the renovated football stadium and new fine arts center.