One Brass Key Offers Topline Safety Solution for Teachers

Jan. 13, 2021
The BEST 9K classroom lock with visual indicator can be locked down from inside the classroom by a teacher with any BEST key

Mike Singleton, Grounds Lead in the Maintenance Department for Valley View School District 365U in suburban Chicago, was in his role for about four months when the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred in 2012. He immediately realized he needed to better understand what solutions were in place in his diverse district community and where gaps existed.

Singleton’s main concern was how to enable teachers to lock the room they were in without going into the hallway and potentially exposing themselves and their classrooms to danger.

“Honestly, at that time, keys, locks, and door hardware were just a small part of my job,” said Singleton. “After Sandy Hook, I wanted to help us be as proactive as possible to create safe spaces for the kids and staff in our district.”

Singleton conducted a robust audit of all the locks in use – no small undertaking in a district with 23 buildings, 18,000 students, and over 2,400 staff. Valley View School District 365U includes students from Bolingbrook, Romeoville and portions of Plainfield, Lockport, and Downers Grove, Illinois.

“In Bollingbrook High School alone, we have over 1,000 doors,” said Singleton. “What I discovered was that we were light years ahead of our neighboring districts. I also learned that we didn’t know the full power of the tools we already had in place.”

That power? One brass key. Specifically, the key in the BEST 9K Series Intruder Function.

The BEST 9K is a classroom lock with a visual indicator on the inside that shows which way to turn the key to ensure the door is securely locked. This simple, yet significant marker, can make a big difference during the intensity of a school lockdown or shelter-in-place order.

“What we didn’t realize was that all of our interior doors allowed any staff member in the building with a BEST key to lock down a BEST door from the inside,” said Singleton. “Exterior locks still require specific keys, but our staff can secure any open room with a BEST lock from the inside.”

Singleton credits previous school professionals in his role for having the foresight to invest in the BEST 9K Series. His goals then became learning all he could about the locks and training both his team and building staff on how they could access top level protection with the turn of a key.

During building staff training, Singleton took a demo lock and keys to show exactly how the lock works to create a safe lockdown shelter space. After showing the lock’s capabilities to the maintenance team, he sent them to train at dormakaba.

“Our in-house team includes locksmiths,” said Singleton. “We’ve studied exploded drawings so we could build the locks ourselves as part of our normal maintenance procedures. All the parts are always available, and we keep a stockpile in inventory.”

Valley View’s locksmith team keeps five-to-six spare parts on their trucks at all times. According to Singleton, they can typically swap out parts in about five minutes to prevent any interruptions to instructional time in the classroom.

“dormakaba has been a good partner for us,” said Singleton. “I’ve been pleased and honored to talk to their product developers and sales reps about new ideas and prototypes. We’re a large district and come up with some different problems. They’re always interested in what we have to say and are available to help.”

Security at Valley View School District 365U continues to evolve, including the potential addition of keyless access using electronic solutions.

“We won’t lose keys entirely,” said Singleton. “But we’re always adding new solutions to our strong foundation to keep students and staff safe.”

The BEST 9K Series Intruder Function Enables a Smart, Fast Lockdown Solution

Mechanical locks like the BEST 9K are an integral part of a comprehensive security strategy and are also a cost-effective answer to the ongoing demand to make schools and classrooms more secure. The 9K Intruder Function offers a smart, fast lockdown solution.

  • Increased Security. Faculty can lock the door quickly and securely from the inside without going outside the classroom.
  • Simple to Use. Visual indicator ensures that anyone can lock the door correctly and quickly.
  • Durable. Tested to over four million cycles, which exceeds the ANSI standard for Grade 1 cylindrical locks and exceeds Grade 1 abusive locked lever torque.
  • Easy to Maintain. Lever return springs provide resistance to leer sag, which ensure that the lever assembly will not need to be reset or replaced once installed. Lever return springs are also protected inside the die-case hub to minimize any maintenance.
  • Easy to Install. Pre-assembled hub design greatly reduces the complexity and time required for installation, which can be completed in five steps.
  • Quick Rekeying. BEST interchangeable core allows for customized master keying and quick keying changes.

BEST pioneered the development of the small format interchangeable core and sets the standard for door hardware. BEST door hardware products are engineered to fit institutional applications and outlast expectations in even the most demanding and complex of projects. A member of the dormakaba family, BEST brand products include a wide range of locks, exits, closers, hinges and more. Further information at

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