Keyless entry to provide security in schools

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 25, 2006

A new keyless entry system at some of Suffolk’s Public Schools could be up and running soon.

The Suffolk School Board, at its meeting earlier this month, voted to authorize the board chairman and school superintendent to make a bid award and enter into a contract to install the card entry system. Bids to provide the service are being accepted through Nov. 28.

The entry system is expected to be installed first at the 10 elementary schools and two middle schools where mobile units are in use, said Bethanne Bradshaw, public information officer for Suffolk Public Schools. The system will be paid for with $45,000 originally earmarked for a fire alarm system replacement at the Pruden Center for Industry and Technology. The Pruden Center received a private donation for the fire alarm system, and the money was reimbursed to the school system.

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The keyless entry system, once installed, will provide both safety and convenience for the students and staff, said Bradshaw.

The details of the system will not be available until a bid is accepted, Bradshaw said. However, she said the system would likely consist of cards that students and staff would carry with them. The cards, when held near a panel near the door, would temporarily deactivate the lock, allowing the person access.

Bradshaw said at least one company had expressed interest in installing a thumb print access system, which would allow or deny users access based on reading their thumb print. However, Bradshaw did not know if that company had even placed a bid.

“It depends on the best proposal for the least amount of money,” said Bradshaw.

The system is especially needed for the schools with mobile units to upgrade the connecting doors, she said.

“Kids and staff have to come through for lunch, music class, library and other things,” Bradshaw said. The back doors on the schools lock automatically from the inside, and “regretfully, sometimes people will prop them open because it’s so hard to get someone to let them in,” she said.

Besides providing security for those who learn and work in the buildings, and convenience for those who pass through the doors, the proposed system has two other benefits, Bradshaw said.

“We like it because of the ability to track and set limits for certain people,” she said. The system can be set up so that some people, such as the principal, have round-the-clock access, and students’ cards only work during school times on days when classes are in session. Access limits can be changed with just a touch of the keyboard, Bradshaw said. And if someone loses their card, all that needs to be done is to deactivate it using the computer system. “It’s much less expensive than changing a lock,” she said.

The other benefit to the proposed system is that it allows tracking of who is using what doors when, Bradshaw said. “It tracks who’s using it in case we need to know that for any reason.”

As money becomes available, she said, the school system would like to have the doors on all the schools upgraded with the keyless entry system.

“There’s a heightened national awareness that schools need to be safer,” Bradshaw said.

The chairman of the school board, Lorraine Skeeter, and the superintendent of schools, Milton Liverman, are scheduled to report their actions on the bids to the school board at the regularly scheduled meeting Dec. 14.