Alvord Schools Network Access Control to Improve Security

With this networked security system, school principals can lock every door immediately in case of emergency, using a master switch in the school office.

As part of a district-wide expansion and renovation program, the Alvord Unified School District (USD) is upgrading its building access control system from mechanical keys to a networked electronic system that integrates hard-wired and wireless locks in real time. It also has the ability to manage stand alone computer-managed (CM) locks used in some applications. As part of the program, mechanical locks used on interior doors are being upgraded to a restricted high-security key system that prevents unauthorized key duplication.

The Alvord USD was created in 1960 when two previous school districts were reorganized and combined. It is one of two unified school districts within Riverside, Calif. Alvord includes 14 elementary schools (grades K-5), four middle schools (grades 6-8), two comprehensive high schools (grades 9-12), a continuation high school and a separate alternative education site. Together, these facilities serve more than 20,000 students.

To meet the needs of an ever-growing student population and prepare for the challenges of the future, voters in the district authorized a $196 million bond issue by a healthy 62 percent margin of those voting. The major thrust of the bond issue was to build an additional high school and undertake major renovation and expansion at existing schools, in part to phase out mobile classrooms. In addition, the bond issue covered new administration buildings and lunch facility upgrades.

Assistant Superintendent Wendel Tucker, Ph D, says, “These upgrades will be undertaken as bonds are sold to cover them. With an authorization for $196 million worth of bonds, we have made projections to determine how much is needed to cover each part. Our intent is to completely retrofit the entire district within the next five years.”

He points out that the district has standardized on one basic building design that has been pre-approved for structural compliance by the State of California. It can be built in any shape and any number of rooms without going through the approval process for each site, since the design has been reviewed and pre-approved for factors such as accessibility and safety. This degree of standardization also allows the district to package bid requests for multiple sites for greater savings.

Investing In Security

Unlike schools in other parts of the country, which tend to have interior corridors with classroom doors, California schools typically have exterior classroom doors that present a different security challenge. In the past, all these classroom doors were protected by mechanical locks and keys. When a key was lost, stolen or not returned when someone left the school system, any doors to which that person had access had to be re-keyed to maintain security. If a master key was involved, the costs and security risks increased exponentially. Electronic access control, by contrast, can be updated quickly, easily and with little or no cost.

Tucker points out an often-overlooked area of return on the investment in upgraded security. “One thing people sometimes don’t take into consideration is the high deductibility on most liability insurance. If a district has a $10,000 deductible and someone takes four computers from a classroom, it probably won’t exceed the deductible. If you multiply that by the number of classrooms or offices where that could occur, the higher security becomes a good investment.”

Although iButton fobs currently are being used in some applications, the district’s primary credentials will be ID badges with proximity card capabilities. Flexibility and better control are two major benefits. Tucker says, “We can issue an ID badge to a substitute teacher or temporary worker that will give them access only to the areas where they need to be. At the end of the day, they turn them back in, but if they forget or a badge is lost, we can remove it from the system with a keystroke.” He adds that combining the proximity card with the ID badge helps ensure that people will not forget their badges, since they need them to gain access.

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