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In response to school security issues local and nationwide, the Cato-Meridian Central School District is looking at new safety and security measures.

District Superintendent Terry Ward said the district has included card-reading systems on doors, interior security doors and window film in the $65 million capital project approved by the community in December. The security features were added to the project earlier this year after the vote.

Ward said the details aren't set in stone but plans are being developed. For example, the district hopes to install card-reading systems on around 100 district doors. The idea is that the doors could be locked with the push of a button, Ward said.

The project's price tag hasn't changed, Ward said, noting certain elements originally set to be included in the project are planned to be covered by an energy performance contract the district is developing. The contract would include various upgrades the district hopes to save money through.

One part of the project to shift because of changes to be made under the contract, includes replacing the district pool's dehumidification system, which is set to cost $50,000. The district hopes to choose between two vendors for the contract by the end of the month.

Ward said the contract would not raise taxes, as the additions would be covered through a bonding company over 15 years. Ward noted the state Education Department doesn't allow these kinds of contracts unless the district can prove it will save money through the improvements.

"Going forward we really started to look at making the physical building more secure," Ward said.

Ward said the safety problems at schools across the country and the district's own incidents earlier this year inspired the security measures. In March, a 16-year-old male was charged with making a terroristic threat for allegedly making threats against the high school. That same week, the district went into lockdown after over 20 bullets were found in a student's locker in what the sheriff's office deemed an accident.

The district also brought in two school resource officers earlier this year. Ward said the district is revamping its safety plan, with a proposal likely to go in front of the board of education at the next meeting.

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Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.

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