District plans for more security at Dzantik'i Heeni

Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2002

To deter vandalism at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School, the Juneau School District may install a fence, motion-sensitive lights, and security cameras hooked up to computers, and will assign a custodian to work through the night.

Windows were broken at the school four times this summer, and intruders entered at least twice, said school Principal Les Morse. Police have taken four young people into custody on charges related to one or more of the incidents, and are looking for more suspects.

Two of the incidents caused at least $13,000 in damage, primarily to windows, doors and cabinets, school facilities manager Joe Mueller told the School Board at its meeting Tuesday.

The school district is insured but will have to pay a $5,000 deductible, said schools Superintendent Gary Bader.

The incidents, in which some classrooms were ransacked, also will cost the school district an undetermined amount of money as teachers work extra to put their rooms in order, Bader said.

"The ransacking completely tore up a lot of the filing systems the teachers had in place," Bader said. "It will be an additional cost for teachers to get organized."

Security measures recommended by Mueller will cost tens of thousands of dollars, he estimated.

Vandals entered the school in late July by breaking a window at the building's back, which is next to woods, Mueller said. The intruders marked several walls, damaged four computers, and broke windows in several doors, giving them access to rooms.

Again in mid-August vandals entered through a window, this time one at the front of the building. Thirty-three windows were broken, mostly in doors, and several doors and cabinets were damaged, Mueller said.

Mueller recommended installing motion-sensitive lights across the back of the school at an estimated cost of $5,000.

"Usually when an intruder walks up to a building and the lights come on, it's a deterrent. You don't like being illuminated when you're doing those kinds of thing," he said in an interview.

Mueller also may install security cameras inside and outside of the building that could be monitored from a computer. He didn't have a cost estimate.

And he'd like to clear some vegetation from behind the school and install a large fence that would make it harder for vandals to flee to the woods. He estimated the fence's cost at roughly $35,000.

"It has to be enough to make anybody feel they don't have an easy escape route," he told the School Board.

Principal Morse said Mueller's ideas for more security are good ones. The school district also will assign a custodian to work through the night so the building would be occupied more hours of the week, he said.

A fence, which has been discussed in the past, could be controversial, though, because some people like having wildlife approach the building, Morse said.

But "the cost of the break-ins is sort of taking precedence, for good reason," he said.

Mueller said the school district would ask the Juneau Assembly to pay for the added security from money left over from construction of the school.

Meanwhile, the repair work continues, but it will be done before school starts on Aug. 28, Mueller said.

Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.

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