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Published: Thursday, 5/25/2006

Airport schools turn to security cameras


Once, Airport Community Schools was considered a quiet, rural school system where the problems of big-city schools were nonexistent.

That picture has changed in recent years.

Last year, on four occasions, vandals struck the Airport High School and Wagar Middle School campus parking lot on Grafton Road in Carleton, Mich.

This school year, a series of bomb threats have been made at both the high school and middle school.

As a result, school officials decided to install security cameras in the parking lot and in both of the schools. The parking lot cameras were installed last summer; the school cameras last month.

The decision appears to be paying off.

"They have worked well; they have deterred our problem," said Daniel Fahnestock, Airport's transportation and emergency services director.

School officials and teachers are having a harder time coping with the use of security technology than students.

"I think there's more resentment on the part of the staff," Wagar Principal Mark Arnold said. "We're a rural school district, and we have to resort to this type of technology for this purpose. ... I'm kind of disappointed. Practically, I believe in the need. Philosophically, I wish we didn't have to do it. It's like [having] Big Brother [here]."

Larry Audet, who became Airport superintendent in January, said after most of the problems ceased, recent data has shown that rural schools have as many student discipline problems as urban schools.

Using $34,000 from a Monroe County technology levy, the three cameras were installed in the parking lot and school bus parking lot; five cameras were installed in hallways near restrooms in the high school; and four cameras were installed in similar locations in the middle school.

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