PPS Looks to Upgrade Security, Communications Infrastructure

Nov 3, 2016

Peoria Public Schools Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat demonstrates video security software that monitors activity outside Trewyn K-8.
Credit Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

The Peoria Public School district is piloting new security technology at Trewyn K-8.

The tech infrastructure includes a feature that allows principals to access their school’s intercom system from any smart phone. Trewyn's principal, Renee Andrews, calls it a “Godsend.” Andrews says the technology gives schools an extra layer of security and comfort should a situation, like a lockdown, arise when a principal is out of the building.

“I could actually still talk to them and not be here, and encourage them to be respectful and responsible and safe, like I do every day," Andrews said. "The possibilities are endless, and it’s just really comforting to me.”

Trewyn Principal Renee Andrews pulls up an app on her phone that enables her to connect with any classroom on the school's PA system.
Credit Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

Schools Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat says there are still 10 schools in need of completely new intercom systems to get the same upgrade. It’s part of a district-wide infrastructure project with costs between $20-30,000 per building. The district wants to implement the full infrastructure upgrades at more than 30 of its buildings. 

Other features include door security, network consolidation and integration of phone and intercom systems. Already, District 150 has invested $300,000 in the effort, which included eliminating 100 excess phone lines. That reduced the phone bill district-wide by $3,000, Desmoulin-Kherat said.

A federal grant covers 85 percent of the costs for implementing it district-wide. Regardless, Peoria Public Schools needs the sales tax referendum to pass for its 30 buildings to get the full security infrastructure, Director of Technology Michelle Seipel said.

If the measure fails, the district would implement changes piecemeal, one building at a time.

Superintendent Desmoulin-Kherat says the technology upgrades are important for the sake of security, but also, for its effect on the classroom. 

“You minimize anxiety, and those sorts of things," Desmoulin-Kherat said. "So kids and staff and students can spend more time focused on what really needs to be done, which is our true business of teaching and learning.”