W.V. County to See Access Control Update at Facilities

Part of the latest school security feature in Kanawha County could cost at least $80,000, but individual schools would have to foot the bills.

School officials are looking into a system of electronic access keypads for each of the county's 122 buildings and more than 80 schools. The hope is that every school will have at least one electronic access point.

They say the cost is likely worth it because they could then easily access information about who entered the buildings and when.

"In light of the recent events out in Colorado, I think it's even more important," said maintenance supervisor Terry Hollandsworth, referring to a 53-year-old man in Bailey, Colo., who took several girls hostage, sexually assaulted some of them and then killed one girl and himself earlier this week. "We're trying to secure the schools and get them locked up."

Hollandsworth is expected to unveil more details about a standardized system at a November school board meeting. Right now, Ruffner and Overbrook elementaries are using a sample keypad complete with the software that retains entrance codes. The county's Crede maintenance warehouse also has one installed.

Ruffner Principal Steve Foster chose to install his at a staff entrance. He said it has been helpful because teachers can get students inside the building quickly without needing a key. He said if he decides to get a second keypad, it might go on the school's main entrance.

"We don't have to worry about doors being propped open for safe schools now," he said.

The keypad at Ruffner even has a biometrics component, which could require a fingerprint or other biological scan for entrance. Whether all will be that high-ech remains to be seen.

Hollandsworth said South Charleston High Principal Bill Walton also has said he wants some keypads. An estimated price for the five doors he hopes to cover and the software that would be used to control all the county's schools is about $17,000, Hollandsworth said.

The county would purchase the software out of its maintenance budget. They keypads would be the school's responsibility.

If schools can't afford the almost $1,000 keypads from their own funds, they would continue using another safety measure the school system is working on completing.

This year, maintenance workers began re-keying all the county's schools. Hollandsworth said it was an attempt to cut down on the number of unauthorized people who had access to the county's schools.

So far, about 50 of the 80 schools have been completed.

Some teachers have met the re-keying idea with scorn because they argue it keeps them from entering a school after hours if they forget to sign out a key, or if the school runs out of keys.

Foster said the keypad has been a convenience for staff and has alleviated some of the lost key or after-hours issues.

To contact staff writer Anna L. Mallory, use e-mail or call 348-5163.