Roundtable: With a New School Year Comes a New Normal

July 7, 2020
Strategic safety and security protocols will mandate how schools implement security systems (A technology roundtable sponsored by dormakaba)
This special technology roundtable is sponsored by dormakaba, and it originally appeared in the 2020 Access Control Trends & Technology bonus publication.

As school districts around the United States plan for the upcoming fall sessions, there is little doubt that it will not be business as usual. With some medical experts predicting the possibility of a major spike in the coronavirus around the country, especially in regions which opened with little regard for testing or following established CDC pandemic protocols, the potential for delayed or launches or staggered schedules looms as a reality.

That being said, most agree that there will be a school year whether it is shared with the brick and mortar facility and a version of on-line classes. Either way, the security strategies and the technologies used inside the school buildings figure to see some changes. From more intense monitoring of staff and student comings and goings, temperature scans and tracking to revamped approaches to access control and door hardware, the 2020 fall school year will certainly be unlike others before it.

In conjunction with dormakaba, one of the top three companies for access control and security solutions in the global market, and two of the industry’s top security practitioners, the print and digital platforms of Security Group present a roundtable discussion of the “new normal” that might characterize the impending school year for K-12 students and staff and how administrators can work with vendors and integrators to keep the spread of COVID-19 at bay and maintain the safety of all concerned.

The two roundtable participants who joined Editorial Director Steve Lasky include Guy M. Grace and Jonathan Jones.

Grace has worked in the security field for 35 years. He currently serves as the Director of Security and Emergency Planning for Littleton Public Schools, a suburb of Denver, Colorado.  He also serves as the Chairman of the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools ( Grace has been providing district security services and leadership to Littleton Public Schools (LPS) for 31 years. He is a recipient of many national and security industry awards and recognitions to include the Association of School Business Officials International Pinnacle award, Security Magazines Most Influential People in Security, The 2014 American Red Cross Century of Heroes award, the Security Industry Association (SIA) Insightful Practitioner Award, the NSCA 2019 Volunteer of the Year Award and the 2019 NCS4 Professional of the year award. Grace is a regular speaker at school safety trade conferences and a regular security media commentator for various trade magazines and media.

Jones is the President of JL Jones Group. JL Jones Group is a manufacturer’s representative agency located in the Rocky Mountain region providing support in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Idaho, and Montana. The JL Jones professional team is unique to the industry in that the firm takes a holistic approach with their construction projects with team members calling on distributors, contractors, wholesalers, integrators, end-users, and architectural design firms. The company represents several prominent security and door hardware brands. Jones has 12 years of industry experience in various management and sales roles. 

Steve Lasky -- Given the current environment faced by security professionals as a result of the ongoing coronavirus threat,  discuss some of the major access control trends that are either currently on the market or close to market that will address the “new normal” of electronic access control and/or door hardware devices.

Guy Grace -- In a time of crisis we are reminded how important the Layers of Security and the Safety Security components are for schools. Leadership and coordination at the district level are integral to the successful development and adoption of school safety processes, plans, technologies and procedures and for ensuring these measures are updated for consistency with evolving best practices. Most school safety measures have district-wide components or responsibilities. It is critical for districts to understand the fundamental link between readiness for day-to-day emergencies and disaster preparedness.

School districts that are well prepared for individual emergencies involving students or staff members are more likely to be prepared for complex events like a community disaster we are dealing with now. Prevention, Mitigation, Response and Recovery should all be considered in all aspects of an emergency response plan. To me, a security system is one of the core tools we need to have a place for the all-hazard emergency responses in schools. District-wide physical security standards must be robust in a pandemic. The physical security standards of our district facilities must be strong during a pandemic. All facets of the systems must be kept up and running during the emergency. Criminal activity to facilities often increases when schools are unoccupied.

I believe that a major access control measure for the future is the deployment of Unified Security Systems by school districts. Unified Security and Life Safety Systems take safety and security components such as policies and procedures, people (roles and training), architectural, communication, access control, video surveillance and detection and alarms to deliver enhanced interoperability and ease of use. Unified Security and Life Safety Systems can overcome concerns with the integration of technology such as differences in functionality between different systems within the connected environment in which they reside in. A good Unified Security and Life Safety System will provide consistent functionality for all of the security components. A properly implemented Unified Security and Life Safety System will help with integrations of new components and allow a district to continue to evolve and expand and deal with many situations to include COVID-19.    

Jonathan Jones -- The need for touchless access points is driving a major shift to touchless readers and credentials. Readers that require a wave of the hand to open a door and credentials located on a personal phone. Both options have become more and more affordable and user friendly in the last few years. The current environment seems to finally be pushing these applications to the market at a much faster pace. From a mechanical door hardware perspective, it is all about copper-based materials and antimicrobial coatings that help minimize the transfer of germs.

Lasky -- Because of the already tight budget situations almost every K-12 school districts find themselves, how can vendors and integrators work with end-user clients to create a strategic access control roadmap that integrates with other solutions, is proactive in its approach and can provide a cost-effective solution?

Grace -- I believe the budgets are even going to get tighter. When we look at the financial impact on our great country that has arisen with COVID 19 I am very worried. Typically, school districts often spend about one percent of their total operating budget on physical security and typically include manpower. Schools now will have to mitigate for COVID-19, and it is not going to be simple or inexpensive. The funding that was going to be utilized for other security measures likely may be diverted. However, school communities are going to have to realize that the other hazards that schools deal with every day that we put in place components to deal with are still going to be there when the buildings are occupied. 

It is my belief that security staff like myself should always work closely with our integrators and manufacturers. A properly implemented Unified Security and Life Safety System is something that is developed through strong partnerships between the district, integrators and the manufacturers. These partnerships certainly have helped me to deal with the challenges of finances and funding over the years.

Jones -- As schools shift their budgets to products that keep their buildings clean, I think it is a matter of educating the districts on the options and cost-effective ways security can help accomplish this. A few of the current cost-effective trends we are seeing are foot pulls on restrooms, touchless readers where auto operators are used, copper adhesives on everything from exit devices to levers, and Healthy Hardware from companies like Trimco.

Lasky -- From a practical standpoint, how do you see security playing a major role this fall as schools bring back staff and students, realizing that things like social-distancing, possible temperature-sensor applications, and more network infrastructure capacity figure to transform the traditional school experience from an open to a more closed environment?

Grace -- As for my experience security and emergency preparedness has a major role now and for the upcoming school years.  When I read the question one of the most important measures a good security program can do is NOT make the school look like a fortress or a place that promotes fear by its measures that are designed to mitigate threats.  It is so important for schools right now to be working with other stakeholders. These stakeholders have designated school personnel with decision-making authority (with the collaboration of registered school nurses) should work with the local health department to coordinate steps for the upcoming school year.  However, when we put in measures the end goal is always safety. The best safety is when it is holistically applied. Does it empower the students to learn, the teachers to teach, and the community who has their love ones in the school to function the best that it can.

Jones -- The openings in a school are one of the highest touchpoints in the building from the entry doors, to the classroom, to the gym, or cafeteria. Limiting the transfer of germs in these openings will be critical in the coming school year. Foot pulls, arm pulls, touchless readers, Bluetooth credentials, antimicrobial hardware, and copper-based products the security industry offers all help to limit the transfer of germs. These products have all been on the market for many years and you’ve seen the predominately used in the healthcare industry. Now with the current environment, we are in you’re seeing them move into the education vertical.

Lasky -- As we move into the future, what course do you see access control technology taking as clients migrate to contact-less and more mobile technology applications?

Grace -- I believe the Unified Security and Life Safety Systems are the future of K-12 security. These systems can overcome concerns with the integration of technology such as differences in functionality between different systems within the connected environment in which they reside in. A good Unified Security and Life Safety System will provide consistent functionality for all of the security components. A properly implemented Unified Security and Life Safety System will help with integrations of new components and allow a district to continue to evolve and expand.   

Jones -- Access control has always played a large part in our education vertical by keeping students and faculty safe and secure. Now, with the market moving towards cleanliness and the security industry being at the cusp of that wave I think the industry will be looked to provide even more support than we previously did. The manufacturers who can innovate at high levels to bring touchless focused products to market at the fastest pace will ultimately dictate which way the technology goes and lead us to a cleaner future.

Learn more about dormakaba at 

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