Market Report: School Security

Aug. 12, 2021
As America heads into the 2021-22 school year, security integrators are seeing installations and upgrades increase to pre-pandemic levels (Security Business Cover Story August 2021)
This article first appeared as the cover story in the August 2021 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.   

The past 18 months has been a proverbial roller coaster ride for the school security market. Most U.S. educational facilities in the K-12 and higher education campus markets have been closed in some part over that time, depending on location. Obviously, this had an impact on many security integrators, who saw projects put on hold while many schools scrambled to use funding for COVID safety-related upgrades and purchases.

In August 2021, the U.S. education market is largely poised to return to normal operations, and with that return to normalcy, comes increased spending on security technologies and upgrades. Market research firm Omdia, in fact, predicts a rise in spending on video surveillance and access control technologies among education end-users through 2024.

Integrators on the front lines of this market confirm this trend. “The school market and especially the private school sector is moving forward with access control and IP video to be installed before the year begins,” reports Kevin Schaefer, owner of Security 101 in San Diego and Los Angeles. “We are currently fully booked out and are now planning installations over the Christmas break at several locations.”

Others never saw a negative impact. “Within the past 18-24 months we have not seen a decline in our K-12 and higher education business; in fact, it is the reverse for us,” says Scott Robitzer, VP of Sales and Co-Owner of Security 101 – Charlotte. “These two specific markets propelled us to a record sales year in 2020, and we will exceed those numbers in 2021.”

COVID Impact

Omdia reports that revenues in the U.S. education market are estimated to have declined by 2.4 percent between 2019 and 2020, largely due to COVID-19. “The K-12 market has not been severely affected, as many physical security deployments and upgrades are required and often legislated,” according to Omdia’s Physical Security Vertical Market Assessment: K-12 Education report, performed in partnership with the Security Industry Association (SIA).

“There are fewer non-essential projects, and it has been more common for projects to be postponed as opposed to cancelled,” the report adds. “In contrast, some higher education security projects have been discretionary upgrades designed to make the university or college more appealing to prospective students. These types of projects have often been cancelled.”

“We did see a slowdown in projects during the initial part of the pandemic, but things have begun picking up in the past 6 months,” says Anthony Iovine, co-owner of Security 101 in New York and New Jersey.

For security integrators, facility access was one of the more difficult issues during the pandemic. Even when schools were not open to students and teachers, getting into facilities was often difficult, if not impossible. Thankfully, those restrictions have eased; however, there are still new hurdles to endure.

“Access to facilities post-pandemic is much better, but you need to follow a school’s adjusted ‘COVID-19 Vendor and Contractor Requirements,’” explains Mike Ruddo, Chief Strategy Officer for Herndon, Va.-based Integrated Security Technologies. “Most schools have documented requirements and associated protocols to ensure a safe work environment for the contractor and the school personnel.”

For technology purchases, schools have access to a variety of funding and grant programs for security solutions, including the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.

“If the school system and their preferred integrator are versed at submitting for federal grants, there are plenty of funding opportunities,” Ruddo explains.

Equipped with this funding, many education facilities are now looking to upgrade security and safety in a variety of areas – some familiar to integrators pre-pandemic, and others emerging in a post-pandemic world.

Video Surveillance

Omdia reports that education has been an early adopter of Video Surveillance as a Service and a move toward security systems that use cloud connectivity. “Security and IT managers for smaller schools are often located away from the school site but need to be aware of what is going on,” the report says. “Cloud solutions can be a good option to support this requirement. Integration of the video surveillance and access control system is also particularly strong in education, and it is growing in the K-12 market.”

Indeed, integrators are also observing this shift to hosted and/or managed offerings. “I have seen more cloud-based solutions in schools both around access and video,” says John Nemerofsky, Chief Operating Officer of Sage Integration.

“We are seeing a lot of interest in video analytics and AI as well, but that may be due to the natural technology progression in the industry and the associated marketing efforts of manufacturers,” Ruddo says. “However, funding will definitely play a significant role in the widespread deployment of that technology, and in my opinion, the better the edge analytics/AI get as related to integration with the VMS, the more affordable they become. That will likely be a trigger to get the technology more widely utilized by schools.”

Access Control and Visitor Management

The active shooter threat has not gone away, and access control and visitor management systems are often the first line of defense against this risk. Omdia’s report found that 77% of school executives are most concerned about physical site security, access control and intrusion, when it comes to their facilities.

“In general, if the school does not have any automation in their visitor management process, I believe that will be a point of interest,” Ruddo says. “All of the school systems that we deal with currently have some type of automated visitor management process, but they all seem to want to improve that process to free up time and resources in processing visitors. Efforts to make the process more efficient are always desired while still handling the automated background check and capturing the appropriate data for future forensics if necessary.”

Adds Iovine: “We have also seen an increased effort on building security with regard to lobby entrances; and recently we are seeing increased requests for installing turnstiles and access control in lobbies. I am not sure if this is being driven by the pandemic, or a rise in crime within New York City.”

“I have also seen schools adding more wireless locks to secure more doors for less money,” Nemerofsky adds. “This is not the most secure way in a lockdown situation, but it is a way to strategically get more coverage.”

Other Areas of Demand

Ruddo says much of the funding for security is being (or has already been) used by schools for environmental changes to their facilities, such as HVAC updates and better air filters, to help prevent the spread of COVID. The Omdia report confirms this trend, with 74% of its respondents citing air filtration and contaminant reduction as a top priority.

While emergency communications has long been a stalwart of the higher education campus market, Brad Wilson, President and COO of San Jose, Calif.-based RFI Communications and Security Systems, is seeing increased K-12 demand in this area.

RFI is seeing increased interest in the K-12 school market for the ERRCS (emergency responder radio coverage system),” Wilson says. “This is a code-driven product enforced by AHJs for new and existing school structures.”

Wilson says these deployments – being driven by codes including the International Building Code (IBC), Integrational Fire Code (IFC) and the NFPA – provide K-12 buildings an approved radio coverage system for all types of emergency responders. This is not limited to fire alarms, and they can be used in response to an active shooter scenario.

Driven by code compliance as well as a demand for shared communications from the first responder community, Wilso explains these ERRCS systems deliver better operational efficiency, interoperability with other departments, location-independent emergency communication with law enforcement and fire, communication to responders outside a building, and integration with emergency personnel equipment.

Finally, despite the rise in demand for security-adjacent technologies, schools remain focused on improving site security and maintaining systems. As America heads into the 2021-22 school year, this bodes well for integrators looking to succeed in this market. “Proper maintenance of security solutions appears to be unaffected (by COVID), based on our experience,” Ruddo says.

Paul Rothman is Editor-in-Chief of Security Business magazine. Email him your comments and questions at [email protected]. Access the current issue, full archives and apply for a free subscription at