Granite School District Security System Grows with Needs

Through a series of improvements to its access control system, the Granite School District continues to expand its ability to provide greater security for its students, teachers and staff. Building on basic door hardware such as exit devices, the District...


Through a series of improvements to its access control system, the Granite School District continues to expand its ability to provide greater security for its students, teachers and staff. Building on basic door hardware such as exit devices, the District now is incorporating greater use of electronic security.

Granite School District, located in Salt Lake County, Utah, operates 61 elementary schools, 16 junior high schools, eight high schools, as well as other special schools and programs. With 68,075 students, Granite is the largest district in Utah and is among the largest public school districts in the nation. Granite is also one of Utah’s largest employers, with more than 7,500 full and part-time employees. The District boundary encompasses 305 square miles.

According to Assistant Foreman, Safety Systems/Police Electronics, Mark Peterson, the District’s security system began about 40 years ago with a burglar alarm system. Access control started with a basic speaker and electric latch at the District’s police office and was upgraded to a proximity card reader as the need for greater security developed there.

The use of electronic access migrated to the schools, along with the addition of cameras and digital video recorders (DVRs) after the Columbine incident raised awareness of the need to enhance security. At the beginning, Peterson says, each high school and secondary school received two or three cameras. Today, he adds, most buildings have between 14 and 25 cameras.

Securing the exterior doors at each elementary school was done by upgrading from mechanical keys to proximity card readers on main entrance doors, as well as doors that provide access from regularly used areas such as parking lots or playgrounds.

“We started by giving each school the option of equipping four doors. Now some have as many as eight doors that are controlled by cards, but we typically leave only the main door open for public access. Visitors must report to the office, which is located near the front door. If we need to go into a lockdown, the principal or custodian only has to lock one door,” Peterson notes.

The District also is starting a program to add electronic access control to its secondary schools, which will allow access to authorized individuals after school hours on a limited basis.

Granite School District continues to keep its access control and burglar alarm systems separate. Because it has its own police department, the District monitors the systems around the clock.

Peterson points out that the security system reports over telephone lines directly to police dispatch, rather than through the District’s computer network. “As good as networks are, we don’t feel they are as reliable as a copper telephone line. Also, if a network goes down at one of the schools, the information still comes through,” he says.

 

Specifying for Long-Term Value

Keeping the access control hardware for close to 100 facilities operating properly with only two technicians and a supervisor presents a challenge. With limited staff and continually growing security requirements, the District began looking for ways to improve security while obtaining better value as its access control system expanded.

One way the District ensures that it gets the best value for its security investment on new construction and renovation projects is to maintain control over the Division 8 hardware specifications by breaking them out from the overall project.

Peterson explains, “The principals get involved in deciding what openings to use, but we’re the engineers and architects when it comes to deciding what equipment to use on the openings. We try to standardize on the solutions we use based on performance. We have about six access control options we can use per opening.”

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