Lincoln Nebraska Schools Move to Prox Card Access

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Technology is transforming the old-fashioned lock and key in local public schools.

Teachers and staff members at Lincoln North Star High School are using what is called a "prox card" to get into the school.

The card and the computerized security that goes with it are now in place at outside entry doors at North Star and the Lincoln Public Schools District Offices.

The card eliminates the need to replace all door locks in a building if someone loses a key. If a card is lost or stolen, the computer can deactivate it and a new card can be issued.

The new security access system uses computers to keep track of which staff members have entered the building and when. The ID card is held in front of a computerized card reader to open a door.

The idea grew out of a districtwide committee that began looking at safety and security more than a year ago, said Scott Wieskamp, facilities director with Lincoln Public Schools.

A safety audit also recommended use of a standard photo identification for staff and ways to identify visitors and vendors who come in and out of school buildings.

"I think it's a good thing, whatever we can do to make our facilities safe and secure so people feel more comfortable," Wieskamp said.

Some district employees have questioned the cost of the new card entry system as schools deal with tight budgets and reductions in staff.

Depending on its number of doors, the system could cost $10,000 to $30,000 to install in each building, Wieskamp said. Schools, especially high schools, can have as many as 40 outside entry doors.

With a standard lock and key system, if a building needs to have locks and keys replaced, it costs $2,500 to $3,000, he said. Initial costs of the new security system included a camera system to take staff ID photos and central control software.

"It's all changing times," said Dennis Van Horn, LPS associate superintendent for business affairs. "We need to be prepared, be proactive ... not reactionary."

In time, the system will be in all Lincoln Public School buildings, Wieskamp said.