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Contracts for Memphis Shelby County Schools security upgrades await board approval

A logo bears the words “Memphis Shelby County Schools”

The MSCS Audit, Budget and Finance Committee recommended more than $6 million in security upgrades for the schools. The recommendations now go to the full board for approval.

Ariel Cobbert for Chalkbeat

Memphis-Shelby County Schools would spend up to $6.3 million to bolster security in the district’s schools under a pair of contracts awaiting board approval.

The contracts with Memphis-based Oteka Technologies LLC call for spending about $807,000 on security technology — including cameras, intercoms, servers, software licenses, and intrusion alarm systems — and $5.5 million for upgraded wiring to support it all, according to board documents. 

The board’s Audit, Budget, and Finance Committee approved the contracts Thursday. 

“Utilizing this technology in the classroom supports an additional layer of safety” and will help protect students and staff, the district said in the documents, citing a rise in mass shootings and active-shooter incidents.

“Replacing discontinued intrusion alarm systems throughout the district and upgrading cameras will improve the building access systems to ensure doors are locked and secured at all times,” the document said.

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The proposed security upgrades come as Gov. Bill Lee pushes a school safety bill that would threaten school districts with penalties if their schools are found to have entrances that are left unlocked.

Separately, the finance committee approved a $349,165 contract to another Memphis-based company, Barnes & Brower Inc., to repair the ceiling for the library at Cummings K-8 Optional School.

The library’s 40-year-old drop ceiling collapsed in August 2022, injuring three staffers. The school’s 300 students were relocated to nearby LaRose Elementary School.

The incident drew attention to MSCS’s aging school buildings. Over 33 of them are at least 70 years old.

Bureau Chief Tonyaa Weathersbee oversees Chalkbeat Tennessee’s education coverage. Contact her at tweathersbee@chalkbeat.org.

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