Napa Valley Keys in Higher Security with Safe Schools

Oct. 1, 2007
To improve key control, the district selected the Schlage Primus key system that provides high security for exterior doors and the outside of classroom doors and Schlage conventional cylinders for inside classroom locks. These can be keyed so the Primus keys will open them as well, which reduces the number of keys issued

In a district-wide move to improve security, the Napa Valley Unified School District replaced its key system with a restricted, patented keyway that prevents unauthorized duplication. With the new locks installed recently, teachers also can lock classroom doors from the inside to make emergency lockdowns safer, since they no longer have to go into the hallway and lock the doors from the outside.

The district, located in the heart of northern California's wine country, extends as far north as Yountville and includes 32 schools located on 28 sites, serving a total of approximately 17,000 K-12 students. A new high school now being planned will bring the total number of schools in the district to 33.

Community support for the plan began with a bond issue in 2002, which provided funding to initiate the district's ongoing focus on improving security. Early efforts centered on a bid proposal that outlined a basic safe school plan. Upon further analysis, it became apparent that the plan fell short of what was needed to provide comprehensive safe school facilities.

Taking it to the next level, the District's locksmith, Jon Darnell, and Matthew Remington, CSI, of Opening Technologies, Concord , CA , surveyed three schools. Remington says, “We surveyed every door at the three schools to better understand the original scope of the work the district had proposed. We re-evaluated their needs and helped the district define what a ‘safe school' was, which included the ability to lock down classrooms, corridors and any common areas necessary to keep students, faculty and staff safe in an emergency situation.” As a result of their findings at the three sites, all remaining schools were then surveyed, and the plan was re-formulated with specific objectives for each site.

Patented Keyway Restricts


To improve key control, the district selected a key system that provides high security where needed without the added cost of high-security cylinders where they are unnecessary. Exterior doors and the outside of classroom doors are equipped with Schlage Classic Primus cylinders, while the inside classroom locks use Schlage conventional cylinders. These can be keyed so the Primus keys will open them as well, which reduces the number of keys issued.

Darnell says the Primus blanks are used for all applications. He notes, “One reason we are using the Primus is to stop unauthorized key copying.” The restricted keyway prevents unauthorized duplication because key blanks are available only from the manufacturer through the distributor.

Another major improvement was converting the locks on all classroom doors so they can be locked from the inside when necessary. Locksmith Jon Darnell says, “We've been heading in that direction, and we needed to change out things that hadn't been done when buildings were remodeled. We also changed all the panic bars from Allen key dogging to cylinder dogging so they can be locked down.” He points out that the schools have fire drills and earthquake drills, but now have added lockdown drills as well.

Doors at many of the schools also needed to be upgraded from knob to lever trim to meet ADA accessibility guidelines, and the security initiative provided an opportunity to incorporate those changes within the overall program.

Because Darnell's responsibility for a total of 35 district sites limited the time he could spend on the upgrades, the district contracted with Opening Technologies to provide a single point of responsibility for the planning, design, and installation. With some help from other staff members, Darnell was able to handle the pinning of all new cylinders in addition to his regular duties, but the project reached completion faster with the contractor handling the installation work.

Remington notes that extensive planning was required to ensure that the project was finished in a timely manner, with supplies and manpower coming together at the right time. He says, “We ended up doing a lot of the work during school hours, and the teachers and administrators were very good about allowing us to replace locks during classes. Any work that included drilling or other noise was done after school or during a holiday break.

Key distribution is controlled by the individual schools, so temporary locksets were installed when necessary. Darnell explains, “I gave them temporary keys during construction so they could still lock down their classrooms and nobody would be locked out. I waited until they had their new keys before I changed to the permanent locks.”

Darnell has experience as a carpenter as well as a locksmith. His responsibilities include any door issues, including door closers, exit devices, hinges, locks and other hardware. With 35 district sites to maintain, including the schools and related facilities, he says it has been a big asset to have a supplier/contractor who stands behind its products and provides backup when he needs it.

Opening Technologies, Inc., located in Concord , Calif. , is an Ingersoll Rand Security Center serving Northern California .