Carson City seeks school bond to improve safety, other improvements

(Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles explaining the improvements sought at each site. Next Monday: Fritsch Elementary School.)

School district officials are calling it the "no frills" bond, funding projects from replacing cracked asphalt to repairing outdated furnaces.

High on the list of priorities for the proposed $18 million bond is increasing school safety.

Mike Mitchell walked through Fritsch Elementary School on a recent morning showing how easy it would be for a gunman to enter the school and how difficult it would be for the staff to prevent a disaster.

"The doors remain unlocked during the day," said Mitchell, director of operations for the school district. "Teachers can only lock their doors from the outside."

That would change, however, if the bond passes in this year's election.

The bond is not expected to raise taxes. However, if it is not approved by voters, property taxes assessed by the school district would go down. The cost of the bond would be about $39 for the owner of a $100,000 home.

"All of our existing door hardware - the handles and the locks - would be converted into an infrared scanning system," Mitchell said.

The intercom system from each school would also be replaced and updated. Now, only one teacher can call into the office at one time.

With the improvements, Mitchell demonstrated how the gunman scenario would be different.

"The teacher would see him and call in a Code Red," Mitchell explained. "She can now lock the door from the inside by scanning her card as well as from the outside."

He said the staff would be instructed that during a Code Red, the doors would all have to be locked, the shades would have to be drawn and the children would all have to be lined up against an interior wall.

"You can't put a dollar value on the safety side of it," Mitchell said.

However, he said the proposed $1 million to upgrade the phone and intercom systems in all the district schools and the integration of the new keying system at each of the schools will save the district money.

He said last year a master key to one of the schools was lost, costing the district $7,000 to rekey the school. He said it would cost $20,000 to rekey the high school if a master key were lost.

With the new system, the lost card would just be deleted from the database and a new card would be issued.

It would also allow for greater accountability.

"All of the cards would be logged into a database," Mitchell said. "We would know who used it and when."

Another step to make the district more safe would be to expand the transportation department's bus barn, which is on the Carson High School campus.

The parking facility was built in 1978 when the district was made up of about 3,000 students. With 8,000 now in the district, the number of buses and bus drivers have doubled.

"Primarily, what we'd like to do is give ourselves more space so the buses aren't just stacked on top of each other," Mitchell said. "With all the kids around, that's just not safe."

Security cameras would also be installed to monitor the facility.

"We've had kids climb the fence and vandalize the buses," Mitchell said. "If we had a camera system, that might deter that."

The total cost of renovating the facility is estimated at $570,000.

Mitchell said they would also like to improve technology within the district with smart boards.

Smart board are large computer screens that take the place of chalkboards.

"It's a presentation system for getting information to the classroom so all the kids can participate in that technology," Mitchell said.

One out of four elementary school classrooms would have a smart board, one of every other two middle school classrooms would have one and all high school classrooms would be equipped with a smart board, costing about $800,000.

The district would also spend about $163,000 in the Nutritional Services department for a new dry storage facility and bulk freezer storage unit and to make all of the sinks code compliant.

Replacing the broken asphalt would cost about $50,000, and $163,000 would be spent to renovate the administration office.


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