Wash. School District Regains Control of Its Keys

Toppenish School District officials needed accountability so that when incidents occurred, they would know who was there and when.

One misplaced building key represents a crack in the armor that protects against unwelcome intruders. As a result, a growing number of school administrators are turning to smart key solutions to not only improve security but to reduce vandalism and theft on their campuses.

Toppenish School District, located in the heart of the Yakima Valley in Washington State, had been experiencing key control issues and wanted to become more proactive about their approach to security. The district serves approximately 3,300 students and operates nine schools, including a preschool cooperative, four elementary schools, a middle school, an alternative school for grades 7-12, a high school, which houses grades 9-12, and a virtual school and WebAcademy. Over the years members of the community had been given keys to access the school facilities, which became a big cause for concern.

“We eventually lost control of our system and had no way of knowing who had access to the school grounds,” states Scott Kallenberger, Toppenish District IT manager.

In addition to keys that were lost, Toppenish was experiencing loss of product from the school kitchens.

“There was no accountability; even with cameras, we couldn’t tell who was stealing because there are so many people coming and going,”  Kallenberger says.

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With the mechanical lock and key system, school officials had no effective way to control and audit access to the buildings. The school needed accountability so that when incidents occurred, they would know who was there and when.

Programming Keys Increases Accountability

Kallenberger attended the Washington Association of Maintenance and Operations Administrators (WAMOA) Annual Fall Conference, in search of a way to regain key control and provide a safe and secure environment for students, staff, and teachers. Kallenberger was introduced to the CyberLock system, he was impressed with the system’s capabilities and immediately recognized the benefits CyberLock had to offer his district. 

Toppenish officials researched other security systems but ultimately chose the CyberLock system because it was affordable and no wiring was needed for installation.

“We looked at other key systems, but the cost benefits just weren’t there; the price per door is a lot less expensive with CyberLock and it’s easy to manage,” Kallenberger claims.

Toppenish has installed CyberLock cylinders in all the exterior doors throughout the district, as well as their high risk areas, including their data rooms, gymnasiums and gates guarding the recreation fields.

In order to keep staff accountable, Kallenberger has programmed the keys to expire once a week, requiring staff to re-authorize their keys and download the audit trail stored in the keys.

“The software creates different access reports; I send one out to the athletics director so he knows who has been accessing the gym and recreation fields, and I send another report to our maintenance supervisor because he uses the reports to ensure the janitorial staff comes to work on time,” says Kallenberger. “We have had a lot of issues with lights being left on in the gymnasium and supplies being taken from the kitchen, but ever since we installed CyberLock those issues have been eliminated.”

Now Key Management Is Less Complicated

Administrators, teachers, and other fulltime staff are assigned their own keys, but seasonal coaches and substitute teachers are not.

“Our substitute teachers are provided a key when they report to the administration office. The administrator programs the key with the access permissions necessary for the sub to do their job. At the end of the day, the key expires,” Kallenberger says. “Our coaches are seasonal so we issue a temporary key instead of a fulltime key. The coaches are given a PIN code which gives them access to a key vault that stores unprogrammed electronic keys. When a PIN code is entered into the vault a single key is programmed with their access permissions.”

Toppenish has provided a CyberKey smart key to the local fire and police departments. Their key is programmed as a master key so if an incident arises they have full access to the district facilities. 

The district has taken advantage of the greater affordability and availability of technology to bolster campus safety. They plan to expand their system and put CyberLock on all the classrooms and other interior locks.

“I really enjoy the CyberLock system, and I cannot wait to expand it,” exlaims Kallenberger. “The management piece and knowing who has access has been very beneficial, and I can’t wait to carry just one CyberKey for everything instead of 50 different mechanical keys.”

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Stephani Ulrich is the marketing director for Videx.

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