Using Control Technology to Create Safe K-12 Learning Environments

Westminster Christian Academy uses centralized control to push out mass notification messaging on campus.

When Westminster Christian Academy broke ground in 2011 on a 250,000-square-foot building in the middle of St. Louis there were many considerations for Head Master Jim Marsh. “Unfortunately in our culture safety is a huge issue,” says Marsh. “It’s the single most primary fundamental responsibility that we have, the safety and well-being of our kids.”

Marsh had to consider how was he going to integrate the myriad communications systems required to keep a sprawling state-of-the-art campus safe. “We are entrusted with the lives of these young people. Parents, moms and dads bring their sons and daughters to us, intrusting their lives with us. When we designed this campus we did so with safety in mind.”

Teachers and administrators need to be prepared to assess and react to a variety of emergency situations every day, such as random acts of violence, medical emergencies, bullying and fighting. They need to know that a quick and appropriate response can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

School districts have come a long way when it comes to emergency preparedness and security, but the latest technologies offer a lot more protection for students when delivered as part of a comprehensive communication system. Westminster chose AMX SchoolView, a hardware and software package that upgrades a school’s existing data network. It offers several components to improve safety, from simple, centralized control of security cameras to mass alert notifications.

Westminster felt in order to create a safe campus it was also important to have one front entrance. After school starts in the morning, all of the other doors are locked and the only way you can get into the building is the front door which has access control.

A receptionist is located in the lobby at all times. Not behind the doors of an office. If necessary, the receptionist can restrict the entry using a security system. If a threat is on campus, a communication system provides the ability to quickly communicate and go into lockdown using the solutions they installed. “It’s an issue of accountability we need to be able to demonstrate to our parents that these systems we have help us ensure their son or daughter will be safe while in our care” says Marsh.

Part of the campus communication system Westminster uses is digital signage. The school now has the capability to deliver customized messages for different locations. “If we want to deliver something to the upper school, we can put it in the commons for students to see when they walk through that area. Information at the grand entry might be for visitors,” says Kent Kehr, director of Technology. “It allows us to be more focused.”

With digital signage they have the ability for mass notification to send alert messages, notify staff and students of a lockdown, provide weather alerts and then send an all-clear message. Using the same displays, remote video broadcast allows Westminster to also view weather announcements or other emergency broadcasts coming from outside the campus.

Also important in today’s mobile world is the ability for administrators to control their entire systems from one intuitive touch panel or with a handheld device such as iOS and Android products. Having the ability to watch security cameras while in the hallways, announce a weather-related early dismissal while in a meeting or trigger a digital message remotely is extremely effective.

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