MATTOON -- The new high school camera system that was donated by various businesses in response to the shooting several months ago has been installed.

According to Mattoon school district officials, the project to update Mattoon High School’s video camera system was recently completed.

The update included approximately 70 security video cameras inside and outside the high school building. As previously reported, the high school security system had consisted of only 12 cameras that predominantly cover the inside of the school.

Todd Ratliff of Total Home and Farm Video Solutions coordinated the donation of 60 video cameras from Panasonic and the donation of supporting servers and equipment from Razberi, as previously reported. The cameras from Panasonic are valued at a total $33,500 and the servers and equipment from Razberi valued at about $20,350.

The district decided to purchase 10 additional cameras to fill in the areas not covered by the 60 cameras.

It was noted that the old camera system did not come close to matching the quality of the new system. 

The video quality "is like night and day compared to the images we had before," said Kent Metzger, facilities engineer.  

At the March school board meeting, Tom Sherman, Mattoon assistant superintendent of business, demonstrated the capabilities of this new system by showing off the zoom capabilities on one of the cameras perched on the MHS gym.

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This camera, while far away, could zoom in on a couple of benches outside of an entrance to the high school. The zoomed-in image could clearly capture the inscriptions on the bench.

Kasey Alexander, the school district resource officer, and other school officials will have access to view these cameras.

The cameras are installed in visible parts in and around the building. According to school officials, that was by design. 

"They are visible for a purpose so that visitors to the building recognize that there is surveillance on the building," Metzger said.

The installation cost the district $24,671. Ratliff intended to donate the labor to install the system but that plan conflicted with prevailing wage rules.

This was offset through donations earned through the sale of Mattoon Strong T-shirts sold by a community group that had formed following the Sept. 20 shooting at Mattoon High School.

The school district placed the $16,000 donation into a security fund and used the donation to defray the cost of Ratliff’s installation costs, school officials said.

The camera system and the addition of a second resource officer were responses to the shooting in an effort to add other layers of security in the district. 

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Jarad Jarmon is a reporter for the JG-TC. He covers the city of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University, Mattoon schools and the Regional Office of Education.

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