Suffolk, Va., Schools Look at Card Access

Schools designed with auto-locking doors could get keypads, card readers


BY AMY COUTEÉ

THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT

SUFFOLK -- Locking school doors keeps strangers out, but it also prevents students and teachers from getting back into the building.

For the last few years, students have been tripped up by increased security measures as they move between Suffolk's main school buildings and portable classrooms.

For safety, school doors automatically lock behind them as they exit the building. To get back in, they either walk to the front of the building, find someone to let them in or prop a door open.

Thursday night, the School Board asked the administration find a company to install a keyless entry system in hopes of eliminating the problem. Some other area school systems use similar electronic entry methods or have other means of security.

In Virginia Beach, the schools use cameras and security assistants to monitor doors leading to portable classrooms. Between classes, administrators can use a keypad security system to unlock the doors, allowing students to easily move in and out.

The key cards in Suffolk would be similar in shape and size to a credit card or driver's license and could be swiped against a wall panel near the door, allowing teachers and students to come and go.

If lost, the card would be deactivated . Officials said the keyless entry system is more cost-effective and efficient than key locks and gives them more control over who enters buildings and when.

"It's something that we want to do at all of our schools," said school spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw .

The system will be partially paid for with funds initially earmarked for a new fire alarm system at The Pruden Center for Industry and Technology.

A private donor paid for the fire alarm and the money, $ 75,000, was refunded to the school division. A portion of that money will be used for the security system.

Schools with portable classrooms will be the first to get the new locks. More systems will be added at other schools a s more money becomes available .

Suffolk will accept bids from companies wanting to install the new locks until Nov. 28 .