The School Committee on Tuesday gave the go-ahead to School Superintendent Philip Conrad’s plan for an immediate comprehensive assessment of all aspects of safety and security in the town’s four schoolhouses.
The committee authorized spending up to $75,000. The results could add to hundreds of thousands of dollars in safety and security improvements beginning next fiscal year.
The committee vote followed approval of proposed fiscal 2024 capital expenditures; they will soon be reviewed by the Capital Expenditures Committee.
“This will give us a very specific roadmap for what we need to do, first, second, and third, and how we can complete this over a two-year cycle,” Conrad said.
Facilities Director Taissir Alani was also on the committee agenda, updating the schools’ entries in Bedford’s six-year capital plan. Under fiscal 2024 and 2025, he has allocated $350,000 each for safety and security.
Committee Chair Brad Morrison asked Alani to explain how he arrived at the projected expense before the study takes place. Some major items are already evident, Alani said, and the total is what could be considered a “placeholder.”
“As we started to look into it, we figured we need the help of someone to give us a good assessment of the entire district,” the director said. He mentioned fixtures and features ranging from card-reader systems, cameras, doors, and locks to emergency and other procedures. Hardware, software, and communications should be “a unified system,” he said.
Alani also noted a proposed $68,500 allocation for next year to protect town buildings from lightning strikes. Currently, Davis is the sole school equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, he said.
In answer to members’ questions, Alani said he is no longer developing plans to install solar panels on school roofs because changes in federal incentive grants have eliminated any financial advantage. Under a revised power purchased agreement rate, he said, almost all proceeds from sale of electricity would go to the installer. “We would just give up the roof for nothing,” he said.
He also outlined fiscal 2024 proposals for $76,650 for flooring replacement, $60,109 for interior painting, and $46,506 for modification of school space to accommodate program updates.
Alani said vinyl composite tile (VCT) is being replaced when needed with a quartz-based product. The new tile is not only more durable, he told the committee, but also “they don’t have to be waxed. That really cuts the overtime in summer so our custodians can pay attention to other things.”
Painting is done in a cycle of six or seven years, Alani said. Over the summer, crews painted all the classrooms at Job Lane School as well as many of the hallways and door frames.
Julie Kirrane, the director of finance for the schools, outlined capital requests in the areas of technology and furniture.
Annual technology replacement for next fiscal year totals close to $500,000, she reported. The replacement budget is “direct inventory replacement based on expected lifecycles,” Kirrane said, adding that “all devices are evaluated prior to replacement.”
The proposed allocation covers desktop computers, laptops, Chromebooks, interactive boards, printers, and replacement of wireless access points and network switches.
The schools use “an asset-based replacement model, which allows us to maintain critical equipment in good condition, which is really invaluable to teaching and learning,” she said.
Kirrane noted that almost 1,300 personal technology devices added to the schools’ inventory for students and staff at the beginning of the pandemic are being returned as they enter their fourth year.
“We have used them well and extensively,” she said. The devices were purchased with $227,000 in federal relief grants.
In answer to a question from member Sheila Mehta-Green, Kirrane said each student will continue to have individual access to a device.
The fiscal 2024 allocation for furnishings is $50,088. Kirrane added that there are no planned expenses for photocopiers next fiscal year.
Committee member Sarah Scoville asked about extra furniture purchased during the pandemic, most of it for Davis School. The furniture is in storage, Alani said, and Kirrane noted that since many of the desks have adjustable legs, they may be used at John Glenn Middle School.