Quentin Oldaker with Upshur County Schools addresses the commissioners at their Nov. 18 meeting. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Commission partners with Upshur Schools on school safety enhancement project

BUCKHANNON – Upshur County Schools will receive security upgrades in 2022, thanks to a Community Oriented Policing Services School Violence Prevention program grant made possible through its partnership with the Upshur County Commission.

The COPS School Violence Prevention program grant funding is available through the U.S. Department of Justice, and its purpose is to enhance security and safety within schools and on school grounds.

Quinten Oldaker, technology director for the Upshur County Schools, attended the Nov. 18 Upshur County Commission meeting to receive the commission’s approval of a proposed agreement between the Upshur County Commission, the Upshur County Board of Education and Alpha Technologies, Inc.

With grants of this scope, the county commission functions as a ‘pass-through’ agency for grant funding for other community entities and organizations — i.e., the Upshur BOE in this case. Alpha Technologies, Inc. was awarded the project after it emerged as the lowest responsible bidder with a bid of $194,973 for the cost of hardware, software and installation services to get the school safety upgrades up and running.

“We want to thank you for your continued partnership with us on these COPS grants. We were so excited to get this [new] COPS grant so we can upgrade our phone system,” Oldaker said. “The main point of the project was to enhance the safety of children within the school system by developing or enhancing emergency notification capabilities, which will allow first responders to initiate response soon after an emergency occurs.”

A couple of years ago, Dr. Jeffery Harvey with JH Consulting, a safety and emergency preparedness firm, conducted a drill at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School to determine reaction times, Oldaker explained.

“We realized from the time it takes someone seeing an intruder to letting the whole campus know was minutes, and that’s not okay for the safety of our children,” he said. “Each location already has a phone in each room of the schools, but this will update everything with the latest technologies, and there will be a one-button push, so if someone sees someone come in the front door or in a hallway, they can push that button and it pages the whole entire school.

“It’ll page the Board Office and eventually, we’re going to work to get it to [notify] the 911 Center as well,” Oldaker added.

He said this new system will reduce reaction times from minutes to seconds, which can be critical in these situations.                                                                           

“Our routers are sufficient. They are older because this is with our older phone system, so we came to the conclusion that instead of replacing these in each of our locations, which would be 12 here in Upshur County, we are going to replace our two main hubs at the high school and the Board Office,” Oldaker said.

“This will allow our main connections from outside, at the State Department, to come in, so we’re going to start there and later on we will replace the other 10 locations through E-Rate funding or other grants.”

They anticipate the new phone system will be fully installed by August 2022.

“Alpha will order the equipment right now, and of course with everything, we’re not sure when things will be delivered – that could be a couple of weeks, could be a couple months,” Oldaker said. “We think the servers are pretty readily available, and that’s the most crucial part.”

“We need those first so we can transfer data, get those installed, and then the phone installation can happen later,” he continued. “We’re hoping in January, we can start getting supplies, get things ordered and get the ball rolling, so we’re excited and the end completion date will be sometime in August.”

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