Keyless in Kansas

An electronic access control system has enabled the Olathe (Kan.) Unified School District to eliminate the use of mechanical keys and simplify entry and exit management at the more than 50 buildings in its system.

Keeping track of keys and knowing the whereabouts of faculty and administrators in a school district that spans 75 square miles, has nearly 4,100 employees and almost 25,000 students can be quite an undertaking. That is what administrators at the Olathe (Kan.) Unified School District 233 discovered with its previous door control equipment, which incorporated a combination of several high-security mechanical key systems.

Although the previous systems provided greater security than conventional keys, the district wanted to improve key control and simplify the issuance process.”Through the years, with staff changes and more keys being given out, it became difficult to get a feeling for who was coming and going in our buildings, especially after-hours,” says Tom Lillis, director of operations and facilities for the district.

Olathe officials realized they needed a better way to manage access to the district’s 31 elementary schools, eight junior high schools, four high schools and 10 support buildings. They determined the best solution was to eliminate keys altogether and embrace the latest in door control technology.

Card Access System Chosen to Replace Keys

Because key management was such a significant issue, it was determined a card access control solution would be most appropriate. “A card access system would allow us to immediately cancel access of cards that are lost, stolen or not turned in by a former employee,” says Lillis. “Keys allow an individual to have 24-hour access with no record of when he or she comes or goes on off hours. But a card system would enable us to grant the access an employee needs as well as track that employee’s use of the card. We wanted to control what days and what hours access is granted.”

District officials chose Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies (IR) of Carmel, Ind., to supply the equipment. “We chose IR because of the complete solution they could provide and range of products that met our needs,” says Lillis. “We were particularly interested in a centralized solution that would allow us to control access at all 52 locations from a centralized server. This solution gave us the easiest and greatest control over card access. I can add, delete and modify any access card for any location from my computer.”

After the decision was made to use IR, the manufacturer quickly went to work developing a comprehensive specification guide for the keyless access control system and door hardware for 52 buildings and approximately 190 door openings at the district. What wound up being installed by Orr Construction Management of Raytown, Mo., was an integrated, open architecture proximity card system from Schlage, together with mechanical hardware from Von Duprin and LCN.

New Equipment Combines With Policies to Enhance Effectiveness

The access system and mechanical hardware installed was combined with door management policies and procedures designed to enhance the new system’s effectiveness. “Our policy is that all doors are to be kept locked during school hours except the front door, but we also need to provide controlled access from the playground area and for staff and maintenance people, both during the day and after-hours,” adds Lillis. “The card access system allows us to keep all exterior doors locked and direct all public traffic to come in the front door, which is monitored by the school’s office. This provides safety for our students since no unauthorized individual can enter from the side or playground doors. Authorized employees, such as teachers returning students to the building after recess, continue to have the access they need.”

Electronic access control improves security and safety throughout the district in several important ways. In an emergency, exit devices provide a safe way out of all doors. However, re-entrance is controlled by card access. For example, while on the playgrounds, teachers can monitor and control who goes into the building from the playground doors. Without a card, these doors remain locked at all times, and door position monitors show if a door is open or closed.

Access Equipment Ties Into Building Network

Because the district’s buildings were already networked for communications prior to the security upgrade, it was easy to add the Schlage system network across all facilities. “The network was put in place to handle our E-mail and daily news,” says Lillis, “so we also were able to use it to manage the new [access] system.”

He explains that the Schlage system is monitored from the district’s service center, but auxiliary sites at other buildings provide backup. “We can go into the system and check, update or change data from any of the locations if necessary,” he notes. In addition, each school principal can set parameters for who gets credentials and what times they are allowed entry to his or her building.  Control of overall parameters, however, is limited to two district-level master administrators.

One advantage of the keyless access system is its ability to be programmed so people who need after-hours access can get into a building while restricting others who have no need to be there. A related benefit is the record of audit trails the system captures.

Another important benefit of using the electronic access control system is its flexibility. The Olathe district’s system can accept new software features as they are developed.

District Adopts Standardized Hardware Components

Although the electronic system controls and manages building access, hardware is still important. Lillis points out that the doors still must close and latch to complete the security equation. Whenever possible, LCN door closers and Von Duprin exit devices were used. “We didn’t want to have multiple types of devices because that would cost us more to keep parts in stock,” adds Lillis. “We have three types of devices, the standard Von Duprin EL99, plus mortise and cylindrical applications.”

Because the district’s buildings already had a large percentage of Von Duprin 99 Series exit devices, it was able to convert them to electric latch retraction for use with the new system by using retrofit kits available from the manufacturer. This resulted in significant cost savings because it eliminated the need to replace the entire devices.

For some openings, particularly in the maintenance facilities and mechanical areas, the new Schlage VIP open architecture hard-wired integrated access control locksets were used. They combine mechanical hardware with the ability to monitor door openings using the existing access control software. They also incorporate a card reader, door position switch, request-to-exit device, and an override key into the exit trim or mortise lock instead of a separate card reader, electrified trim and power supply.

Installation Took Less Than 10 Months

Despite the fact that new hardware and access technology was installed at so many locations and 98 percent of the district’s employees required cards, the actual process from bid to completion took less than 1 1/2 years. Lillis adds that the actual installation took about eight to 10 months. “We are now 100-percent up and running at all locations that were slotted to have the system.

“Since the installation, no employee has left our district and maintained access to a building,” comments Lillis. “In the past, we had employees who walked off the job or were terminated and did not turn in the building keys. This would prompt security concerns at the building. Now we have the ability to terminate access immediately in such a situation.”

Beverly Vigue, AHC/CDC, is vice president of IR education solutions. She can be reached at (301) 294-6196.

For the complete version of this article, please refer to the May/June 2006 issue of Campus Safety Magazine.

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