June 26, 2014 4:07 pm

Edmonton Public to install security cameras at all elementary schools

Watch above: Security cameras will be installed in all Edmonton Public elementary schools. While no one denies child safety is paramount, one group questions whether these measures are needed. Eric Szeto reports.

EDMONTON — The Edmonton Public School Board has approved its budget for the upcoming school year, which includes $750,000 to install security cameras at all elementary schools.

“We really thought it was important to ensure that every student in every school is safe,” said EPSB Chair Sarah Hoffman.

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In the majority of schools, all doors are locked apart from the main entry once class begins, Hoffman says. And because not all schools are designed so main office staff can see the front doors, Hoffman says cameras will allow staff to monitor who is coming in and out of the building.

“There were a few times this year where adults were in the schools that shouldn’t have been in the schools, to be frank,” Hoffman explained. “We wanted to make sure those people that are coming in or out of the schools, that the staff at the office know who that is and if they don’t belong there that they can approach them and have a conversation to find out why exactly they are there.”

Security cameras are already installed at 15 elementary schools, five elementary/junior high schools and four junior high schools in Edmonton. The 2014-2015 budget allocates $750,000 to install cameras at an additional 64 elementary schools, four elementary/junior high schools and eight junior high schools.

It’s a decision many parents are welcoming.

“I think that’s a wonderful idea,” said one Edmonton mother. “That’s excellent.”

“I’ve often wondered why schools have not had security cameras and I think it’s important … in case of emergencies or if something ever happens, it’s good to have,” she added.

“I would feel more safe with having security cameras at the schools.”

Tania Nadeau, who is a mother of three girls, agrees.

“I think it is, especially in the hallways, because of the fact that you don’t know…anybody can walk in the front door of the school and… it’s for safety for all the kids and including the staff.”

“It’s scary for me. I have three daughters and I don’t want anything to happen to them.”

However, one human rights educator feels cameras in schools may not be the best approach.

“Is this necessary?” asks Yessy Byl, with the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre.

“Because surveillance cameras are an infringement on our rights of privacy.

“They’ve developed, over the years, some guidelines on when that kind of invasion of privacy really is justifiable,” explained Byl.

She says there are other ways to deal with issues like unwanted visitors entering schools.

“First of all, those cases are so rare, and I think there are measures that deal with the problem without video surveillance… Video surveillance doesn’t just – it does offer some protection I suppose – mostly, not protection but a follow up so that if something happens it’s easier to find the evidence of who did it. It doesn’t prevent anything, I don’t think.”

The board approved the $1 billion budget Tuesday afternoon, which is about $38 million more than last year’s budget. In addition, more than 100 new teaching positions have been created. But because enrolment is expected to increase by more than 2,200 students, Edmonton Public calls it a “status quo” budget.

“By no means should people think that [more] teachers will mean that it’s necessarily going to translate to smaller class sizes, though, because we will have a lot more students next year, as well,” Hoffman explained.

Other budget highlights include:

  • Overall, the district increased its budget by about $38 million from last year, using almost $14 million of its own surplus operating reserves to meet its budget
  • More funding for K-9 instruction and smaller class sizes in Grades 1 – 3, which are in part affected by a dramatic increase of 1,328 students in elementary
  • The district will hire an additional 339 employees which includes 118 full-time equivalent teaching positions and 202 support staff positions
  • $750,000 is being set aside to install security cameras at all elementary schools
  • $500,000 increase in funding for staff development due to additional professional development days in the pilot District Calendar Project
  • The district continued to trim costs for system administration and school board governance – trimming $114,000 from this area for 2014-2015
  • A new $4.8 million equity fund to support students

Hoffman says provincial government funding is still “a long way away” from where it was two years ago.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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