Jacksonville schools invest in state-of-the-art notification system

A state-of-the-art emergency notification system is expected to be installed in all buildings in Jacksonville School District 117 by the end of the fall semester.

The school board voted unanimously on Wednesday to purchase technology from Centegix Video. School board president Noel Beard said he believes it is the first such system in a central Illinois school.

“Anything we can do to protect staff and students is worth it,” Beard said. “It’s just one more thing we can do to make our schools safer.”

The district agreed to a five-year contract with Atlanta-based Centegix and will pay $155,000 from its general fund in the first year of the contract, according to Superintendent Steve Ptacek. He will pay Centegix $88,000 each for the next four years.

The system is simple to use, Ptacek said. Teachers and other staff will receive a card similar to their ID card which will go in a carrying case.

If the button on the map is pressed three times, it will send an alert to inform administrators, the school nurse and the school resource manager that there is a localized situation such as illness or a fight, said Ptacek. The building map will be displayed on desktop computers and phone applications provided to key stakeholders. A dot will indicate the location of the alarm. The police will only be notified if a member of staff continues to press the button on their card.

“If there’s a major threat, staff can keep hitting it until they hit it eight times and the system kicks in,” Ptacek said. “This will trigger a school-wide alert that will trigger strobe lights that will visually notify students that the school is closed. In addition to alerting school staff, district officials, and the 911 center will be informed.”

Jacksonville Police Chief Adam Mefford is already a fan of the new system.

“You rarely find something you like 100%, but this checks all the boxes. I’m 100% behind it,” Mefford said. “It’s a good thing for our community and our school district to be a leader. I hope other schools will take the same direction. It may not be good for all districts, but it increases school safety.”

Ptacek said the district is working with Jacksonville police so officers on duty have the app on their phones and know where to respond.

Notification cards can only be activated when they are within range of a Bluetooth hub at each school, according to the Centegix website. Staff cannot accidentally activate a police response while away from school.

Ptacek said Centegix will provide staff training.

“It is necessary to emphasize when to use it and when not to use it. It will not replace the office call for a manager,” Ptacek said. “If someone is seriously injured, we could use the broader alert so that 911 is notified.”

Mefford likes the system because it gives staff the ability to flag. Other systems use buttons attached to a classroom wall or activated by a cell phone.

“I like that it’s mobile and can be carried around. They don’t have to run around a room or keep track of their phone,” Mefford said. “I like it because it alerts all key players as well as law enforcement. It allows everyone to act in unison and will reduce our response time by letting officers know exactly where the alert has gone. been activated.”

Beard said the administration looked at several systems and felt it served Jacksonville best.

“We’ve seen other systems at school board conferences, but they were hardwired,” Beard said. “Superintendent Ptacek, Building Administrator and Deputy Superintendent Matt Moore reviewed several others before deciding on this system. I think this is a great step in securing our campuses and ensuring the safety of our staff and our students.”

Mefford said the department’s relationship with the district has evolved as they work to make schools safer and ensure doors remain locked.

“With the school shootings, it’s time to put financial concerns aside and focus on the safety of staff and students,” Mefford said. “I’m glad we’re putting our systems into action instead of talking about it until it’s too late. We need to protect our children and this system is a good step forward.”

Ptacek said the district did much of its research on the system online, including on a principal’s Facebook page.

“We’ve seen lots of feedback from school principals who are thrilled with the system,” Ptacek said, noting that 80% of schools in Georgia and 20% of schools in Florida use the Centegix system.

Mefford said he participated in several meetings with Ptacek during the early stages of finding a system suitable for the district’s needs and was able to voice his concerns.

“We both agreed that the Centegix system would meet the needs of the school and local law enforcement,” Mefford said.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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