WATSONVILLE — The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday narrowly rejected a proposal for a pilot program to place ID scanners at Hall District and Valencia elementary schools, which would determine whether visitors can legally be on campus.
If the pilot program was successful, the system would have gone district-wide.
The system by Houston, Texas-based Raptor Technologies would be used to check every visitor against the national sex offender database, and reject visitors whose name comes up. People with restraining orders and other legal issues would also be flagged.
At $1,725 per unit, the pilot would have cost $3,450. If installed at all schools, it would have run about $50,000.
PVUSD Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez said that the proposal stemmed from a recent survey that found inconsistent check-in procedures at the district’s 31 schools.
“At this current time we have very open campuses, and people are frequently walking around even our elementary sites without having checked in,” Rodriguez said. “We do place the security of our students at our number one.”
The measure failed 3-3, with trustees Kim De Serpa, Karen Osmundson and Georgia Acosta dissenting. Trustee Maria Orozco was absent.
De Serpa said that students have staff with them at all times, and as such are safe while at school.
“I don’t see sex offenders on our campuses as a really big problem,” she said. “I don’t see that this is something that needs to be checked on all the time. I’m more scared of people coming onto campus with a gun.”
De Serpa also expressed concern that the information gathered could be used to target parents who are immigrants.
She also said that the system would also preclude people with low-level crimes, and those whose status could shift under impending changes to California sex offender laws.
Acosta said she was “extremely concerned.”
“This could potentially preclude a lot of parents, especially in the south,” she said. “I can see them wanting to go on campus and being afraid and intimidated, and that is concerning to me. We are trying to be an inclusive environment and bring parents in and encourage them to do that.”
Acosta agreed that student safety is important, but said the district should instead start with creating a standard operating procedure for all the schools.
Trustee Jeff Ursino agreed that it could deter some parents, but said he supported the pilot program.
Ursino said he was recently stopped while visiting Rio Del Mar Elementary School and asked to check in at the office.
“That is the culture we need to build, and this is part of that process,” he said. “If we can protect one kid, that’s really important too.”
Trustee Leslie DeRose, who supported the proposal, also expressed concern about how the program would affect the immigrant community.
“Our parents are really scared,” she said. “Our community is scared. We’re asking them for information we are going to put in the federal database. I can just see that being a real problem.”
Trustee Willie Yahiro said that students are encouraged to report their concerns, which includes reporting visitors who have not checked in.
“If you see something, say something, and that person does not belong on campus for the safety of not only the teachers but the students,” Yahiro said.
In other action, the trustees tabled a proposal to install a system on busses that would help drivers check for remaining students before parking and locking up.
Spurred by a new California law, the system would require drivers to push a button in the rear of the bus to show they have not left a student behind.
The program by Seattle, Wash.-based Zonar Systems will cost a little more than $153,000. The trustees pushed the decision to a later meeting after Acosta asked whether it had gone out to a public bid.
It had not, and the trustees delayed action to allow other companies to submit a bid.
The matter carries some urgency, since, at 100 busses, PVUSD has the largest fleet on the Central Coast, Rodriguez said. Each system, she said, takes eight hours to install.
At the same time, the district must comply with the new state law by the beginning of the 2018-19 school year.
The district has not yet rescheduled the item.
The trustees also approved an update to a policy that previously allowed some classified employees to retire from the district, and then take a job in another district while drawing benefits from PVUSD.
Under the former policy, certain classified and certificated managers and confidential employees could receive 10 years of full medical benefits after they retire. But nothing in the policy stated that they cannot continue to work in another district while receiving the benefits.