Safe at School

Superintendent of Schools Joseph M. Ferraina’s “children first” philosophy has driven the Long Branch School District (LBSD) in New Jersey to construct four new schools and renovate others. Security threats and after-hours school building demands by the public, has required the school district to secure students, staff, properties and numerous visitors.

Ann Coyle Degnan, facilities director for the district was tasked with researching and deploying a standardized security management system throughout LBSD’s 10 schools and one administrative building. After reviewing several systems, systems integrator Advanced Video Surveillance recommended AMAG Technology’s Symmetry Professional access control system and Symmetry Video.

Seven buildings now have Symmetry Professional installed and six of those have implemented Symmetry Video. All staff is required to wear badges. High School and Middle School students carry an ID badge, but it is not an access card.

“After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Homeland Security Department stepped up and adopted criteria for new buildings,” Ferraina says. “We had a vulnerability assessment done, which gave us the background and knowledge to go out and execute our security plan.”

LBSD takes an interactive approach to protect its schools. Rather than having a guard view monitors all day long, a security officer roams the hallways throughout the day and interacts with the students. The security people are physically monitoring what is happening, and if there is an incident, they radio back using handheld radios to the office staff who immediately view the monitors.

The district has deployed 280 Pelco fixed dome and PTZ cameras. The new high school and middle school use the video management system as a live tool to help deter unwanted security breaches and bad behavior. The elementary school uses video as a forensic tool.

The access management system also controls access after school hours. The necessary doors are scheduled to lock automatically at a specific time. “After Columbine, it became a different world,” Ferraina says. “We need to restrict the flow [of students] and the only way to do that is with access control.”

The system also helps track employee activity. If an employee is in a building late at night, the system can track the employee’s whereabouts.

The security management system enables the schools to manage their own databases. Having multiple schools on the system, LBSD needed centralized control for each building. The system separates the databases so the principal of the high school only sees the high school badge holders. LBSD runs a Web client which allows principals at different schools to log in and modify badges and access level permissions for their perspective schools.
The district’s IT department runs the system on a laptop, and is considered a strategic command center in the event of an emergency.

“The system has allowed LBSD to provide a safer environment for our students,” Ferraina says. “While I know that no system is fool-proof, I feel we are doing the best we can to protect our students and staff from a potential tragic situation.”