The Blount County Board of Education late Thursday approved the priorities for spending a $242,680 state grant for school safety that the board and County Commission approved last month.

The priorities:

• A visitor management system for all schools, which will scan IDs such as driver licenses and conduct an instant background check. The $33,600 for the Raptor Technologies Visitor Management System includes scanners, badges and printers, a database fee and training, as well as the annual $11,340 license.

• Seven additional handheld radios for each of the 14 elementary schools, as well as the Sam Everett School of Innovation campus, estimated to cost $52,500.

• New exterior door security for Heritage and William Blount high schools. The Continental Secured Access Door Entry System, estimated at $55,000, can be moved if renovations at the high schools require changes.

• Manual security devices for every classroom door on the 21 campuses, estimated at $40,000.

The remaining $62,000 could be used to improve entrances, add fencing at Townsend and Fairview elementary schools and enhance existing video surveillance systems.

The new entrances would be at the four middle schools as well as Eagleton, Porter, Montvale and Middlesettlements elementary schools.

The priorities are focused on security when students and staff are on campus, explained Stan Burnette, supervisor of student services.

“I’d like in the future to look at cutting the size of some of the campuses down,” board member Robbie Kirkland said.

“It’s a lot of maintenance,” he said. “To me it seems like a waste of space.”

Board Chair Debbie Sudhoff said the district needs to be cautious about reductions because of projections that the extension of Pellissippi Parkway will lead to further growth.

EMS baseball

A $20,000 budget transfer the board approved Thursday should allow field improvements so the Eagleton Middle School baseball team can begin practice Feb. 1.

“If the field is not upgraded, EMS baseball will not have a field,” Principal Summer Russell told the board before its vote. “The field as I understand it is unplayable. It’s not a safe place for the students to play.”

The money will be used for crowning the infield to provide the proper slope for drainage, repairing dugout roofs, repairing the fence and sodding the infield in the spring, as well as repairing the steps and landing outside the press box.

Although the school district transferred ownership of the ball field to the county years ago, it only recently officially signed the deed, according to school officials. Board member Fred Goins wants the county to approve the work on the field in writing.

Other funding already is being used to add a sprinkler system.

An association for travel baseball uses the EMS field a few times a year and pays the school for that, Russell told the board.

“If the county ups and sells this down the road, we’ll have to look for another field,” Kirkland said.

Digital science textbooks

The school board also approved a five-year contract with Discovery Education for digital science textbooks for grades three through eight, along with teacher training.

The contract, which allows the district to opt out every year, will cost $82,850 the first year, $30,218 each of the next three years and $15,109 in the final year.

“It’s a bargain in my opinion,” Mike Crabtree, assistant director of curriculum and instruction, said when board members asked about the price.

Principals and teachers at the meeting told the board that science teachers, who have been pulling information on their own to meet new state standards, are “chomping at the bit” for the new digital textbooks.

In other action:

• The board approved a new fishing team using the name “Heritage,” although it is not an official school-sponsored team this year. Sudhoff said she hopes it will be a school sport in a year or two, noting the sport can lead to college scholarships. The team currently has 23 members, mostly from HHS, with one from William Blount and one from Maryville.

• The board added another special education bus in the Prospect area to handle increased demand, bringing to 102 the number of buses serving Blount County Schools.

• Amanda Vance, special education supervisor, presented an award the district received for having a 100 percent job placement rate for students in its Project SEARCH training program for students with developmental disabilities during the 2016-17 school year. Of 550 Project Search programs worldwide, only 58 reached that placement level. Although the awards are presented later, BCS also had 100 percent placement for the students who completed the program last spring, the third year in a row.

• The board passed the second reading of four new policies required by state law. The policies require background checks of existing employees every five years and drinking water tests in school buildings constructed before 1998. One policy allows students to be counted as present for attendance during postsecondary school visits, and the fourth details who may alter transcripts.

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