Unit 5 is taking measures to ensure no communication breakdowns occur due to faulty technology. (Photo by Paul Morello/WJBC)
By Zach Dietmeier
NORMAL - Unit 5 is upgrading its communication equipment in the aftermath of the Normal Community High School shooting.
Superintendent Gary Niehaus and the Unit 5 staff found out that instant contact with certain parts of the district, including NCHS, needed to be improved.
"We were dropping calls off our cell phones at important times," said Niehaus. "Internally, at Normal Community and Normal West we also had problems with two-way radios so we put boosters in there as well. Communicating then from the school to evacuation site presented another issue."
The school board will vote on the authorization of an agreement with Motorola for new two-way radios. The new equipment will connect Unit 5 with police, fire, and ambulance service and will cost the district $270,000 over two years.
In the wake of the September incident, Unit 5 is focused on more district evacuation practice and better connections.
"It gives us a lot of flexibility, it gives us a tower, and it gives us the strength we need throughout the district to really make a big difference in the communication," Superintendent Niehaus said.
Niehaus admitted Unit 5 should've taken the need for more reliable equipment more seriously before danger presented itself, but this purchase secures a network that will cover the entire district.
In additon, the board will approve a finalized 2012 tax levy. Niehaus says some tweaks have been made, and the end result isn't much different from the 2011 version.
"It's still not the number we're looking for, being a positive number," said Niehaus. "It was half of what they projected earlier. Because we are paying off bonding interest, our payments go up this particular school year but stay flat over the next three years, so there is a bump."
Homeowners with an assessed valuation of $150,000 were posed to face a $17 increase on this year's levy in October. The board meets at 7 p.m. at the Unit 5 office.
Zach Dietmeier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.