Integrator Lappen Revamps School Security

Oct. 27, 2008
Upgrade is seamless and transparent but robust

There’s nothing worse than having a security system that doesn’t meet the expectations of the end-user. But there’s everything right about having a top-notch integrator fix the problem with a lot of ingenuity and expertise and the right product tailored to the application.

What’s even better is when the integrator, Lappen Security Products, Little Chute, Wis., can make the transition to a more workable system seamless—without the end-user even knowing of or experiencing any disruptions in usability.
Located on the Fox River in northeast Wisconsin near Appleton, Little Chute is a rural town of about 10,000 that has both a public and private school system. The public school district that Lappen Security worked for consists of three buildings that serve elementary, middle and high school students located in separate facilities that needed to have networked access control in order for the system to work efficiently for school administrators, teachers and other authorized users. The District serves more than 1,500 students; part of the facility includes a fitness center open to the public during non-school hours.

School administration was frank about their assessment of the current access control system they had in place before they brought Lappen in for an assessment and consultation.

Security was certainly important, according to Jim Fochs, director of Buildings and Grounds of Little Chute School District. “We had an access control system in place but I found it frustrating to use,” he said. “It enabled us to track people in the building, but was difficult to set up start and stop times for access to different groups of people. The mechanism used to communicate data from the server frequently locked up. If there were problems with any of the doors, unlocking when they shouldn’t, I had no idea there was a problem unless someone called me. The system was also very time-consuming to program and operate. If we needed to change the server PC running the software, many settings needed to be reconfigured, often resulting in loss of access or schedule problems.”

Problem solved
Operations Manager Scott Wildenberg of Lappen worked in a consultative manner with the school district to address the problem, although they were not the company that had installed the existing system. (Scott’s father Mike Wildenberg is the owner of Lappen Security Products.)

He met with Foch to talk about what the school district could do to solve their problems, yet still use the equipment that they had in place. Lappen was able to reuse the existing readers and other access control hardware and instead just “swap out the control boards and software and upgrade that end of the system,” Scott Wildenberg said. He installed a new PC-based software access control system and felt the user interface was clear and easy to understand and deploy, which was of critical importance to Fochs and his administration.

“In the end, the user didn’t see any difference or even experience any down time, but the change was there. It was extremely workable and we added doors to the system with the software as well,” Wildenberg said. The system uses proximity card readers and controls access on 26 doors across the three buildings and a maintenance shop. The fitness center is also seamlessly configured to the security system.
Part of the ease of installation was due to the ability of Lappen to use the existing readers and cards, which also lessened the disruption to the district.

It uses TCP/IP converters to enable the buildings to communicate over the school’s Local Area Network. Wildenberg said that to activate the converters required the simple press of a button in the software on the computer and then the devices were automatically detected. He then entered the IP address to set them up, he said.

“What really impressed the user was that they didn’t see a difference initially, but it was so much easier for them to use. They were pleased with the results and now have the security they need,” he said.
The system has given the school the flexibility it required for its operations, according to Fochs. “I have several access levels or permissions set up, for example elementary teachers only have access to their school, maintenance has wider access and cleaning staff can access only the building they maintain. It has also helped with the fitness center, which is open to members from the local community. I have set up a time zone in the software which grants members access with the fobs, only outside of normal school hours,” Fochs explained.

Another plus: the software can be loaded on several PCs without additional cost. This means the high school business manager can issue and maintain fobs for teachers, coaches and fitness center members without added expense to the district. The school can monitor all events throughout the district and generate a report for each door or opening which lists all transactions that occurred at the specific opening.