AKRON, Ohio — After weeks of violence inside its public schools, the Akron Board of Education agreed to a plan to spend nearly $3 million in security equipment on Monday.
The plan, which passed by a 5-2 vote during Monday's board meeting, comes as the district tries to secure its classrooms.
Since the beginning of November, Akron Public Schools has seen at least four reported violent incidents in the district, including stabbings and the discovery of loaded weapons on campus.
Concerned parent Teresa Ridgeway told 3News' Lydia Esparra, "These behaviors have created an unsafe environment, erased hours and hours of instructional time for our children and caused anxiety and fear for Akron students, teachers and families."
Akron Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Stephen Thompson laid out the details of the new framework in the district’s first on-camera interview since the violence began.
“We have to get a handle on this,” Thompson told 3News' Marisa Saenz. “What we are doing is introducing some significant security upgrades that we are asking the board to support.”
The district’s new security plans will include an upgrade and addition to security cameras, including:
- New cameras in all schools, plus a three-year contract with Southeast Security
- New metal detectors
- Bag scanners
- An alarm system on all doors
“Many of our cameras are down, or they're slow or they're not recording effectively,” he said. “So they're creating some challenges from, from a camera perspective, are our metal detection systems are challenging because they're the very old technology”
Thompson also added that the district was forced to check students’ bags manually, sometimes adding an hour-long line to search bags before school.
“When they go through these machines quickly, it'll knock our time down by two thirds,” Thompson explained “We're trying to expedite it of alarming all of our side doors so that a student couldn't prop open a door to come back in at a later time.”
All the new measures come after the district hired additional security staff.
Thompson said there are 50 full-time safety team members that have recently been hired and 13 part-time team members with more additions expected.
The Akron Education Association responded to the new security proposal Monday:
“While AEA believes improving technology surrounding metal detectors, cameras, and exterior door alarms is a good first step to prevent outside weapons and violence coming into our buildings, we still believe there is a lot of work to be done to address the violence within our classrooms and hallways. Assaults, fighting, and harassment still continue to be a large presence within our buildings. Teachers will continue to speak out and work with the Akron community to have the difficult discussions necessary to work towards solutions.”
The safety concerns in Akron's classrooms are a crucial piece of the negotiations for a new contract between the teacher's union and the district. A federal mediator has been brought in to help end the deadlock between the two sides.
Thompson said the metal detectors will likely be installed in six to eight weeks, or in February; The scanners will take roughly 10 to 12 weeks; And the cameras and the security system will take three months to install.