Access Control Systems in Schools

front entrance to school with access control systems
Access control systems help you keep track of who is in your school building.

Schools face many threats. Unauthorized people on school campuses can pose a danger to school buildings, equipment, staff, and students. Access control systems can help address some of these dangers as part of a larger security and safety plan for your campus. In this article, we’ll discuss the necessity of access control on school campuses, some popular options, and how to improve school security with access control systems from our experts. 

Access Control Systems Help Keep Students Safe

There are a great many people you might not want on campus. It’s important for everyone inside your school building to be there for a purpose and undergo some basic screening. For instance, you wouldn’t want to accidentally let in a sex offender or a non-custodial relative. Also, while it feels unthinkable, there have been many instances of school shootings by people with no relationship to the school, such as the Sandy Hook school shooting. Therefore, it’s important for schools to take steps to reduce these risks and hazards.

Access control systems can be one layer of a multi-disciplinary approach to improving school security. These systems are designed to keep out people who have no business on school property. A well-designed system should make it difficult to enter without authorization. However, it should also be convenient to use for students and staff. Unfortunately, many schools rely on outdated or poorly designed systems that could pose a threat to security.

To help combat safety and security issues in schools, the Texas Association of School Boards requires each Texas school district to have a dedicated safety and security committee. These committees must identify risks and provide recommendations for reducing and mitigating them. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, school board member, or another member of one of these committees, it’s essential to consider how new or updated access control systems can help keep students and staff safe. We recommend assessing current systems and their performance to determine if it’s time for an upgrade. 

How Do Access Control Systems Work for Schools?

Each access control system should be customized to the property and the threats it faces. Generally speaking, school access control typically has a few key components to help keep campus safe and secure. 

Access Control for Exterior Perimeters

Many schools have several layers of access control for the campus. The first layer might be fencing with gates to help control who has access to the grounds and parking lots. Elementary schools may use outdoor access control systems for playgrounds and recess areas to help protect kids while they play. Gate controls may be controlled by an on-site security guard, gate codes, or keycards to secure the school’s perimeter. 

Access Control Systems for Entrances and Exits

In addition, most schools use access control for each entry point to the school. These life safety solutions help prevent unauthorized access to the school building itself. You can use access control systems to manage how and when people can enter the school building. There are a few ways to do this. One way is to make all exterior doors except key entrances so that they can only be opened from the inside. This forces everyone, including staff, students, and visitors, to enter through areas you choose. 

However, in some cases this can create significant bottlenecking, especially when the school day starts. Another option is to have one visitor entrance and then allow certain people access to open other doors from the outside. These doors should be locked at all times and certain people, such as teachers and staff, can be given the ability to unlock the door to enter the building. Schools commonly use RFID keycards for this type of access control. Then, visitors can only use a specific door, preferably close to the main office for visitor screening and check in. 

Just keep in mind that all doors need to open from the inside for safety. Security locks should allow easy egress in case of a fire or another emergency. Our life safety specialists can help you design a system that is safe, secure, and meets applicable codes.

Access Control for Interior Doors

Many schools also have certain areas that may need additional security inside. For example, you likely don’t want everyone to have access to storage closets where you keep expensive equipment for chemistry classes and the like. Therefore, you may have interior doors that also feature access control locks in your school. These doors should only give access to people who absolutely need it. For instance, with our example of the chemistry equipment closet, the English department likely doesn’t need access to these areas, but the Science department probably does. Having access controls on interior doors can help protect key areas from theft, vandalism, or other issues. 

Considerations for School Access Control Systems

When designing access control systems for schools, there are several factors to take into account. For instance, it’s common for high schools to use RFID-equipped ID badges for students to gain access to various parts of the school. Yet, elementary students may not be mature enough to keep track of these cards. It’s important to consider not only the threats your school faces, but also exactly which solutions will work best for your staff and students. 

Also, it’s important to train your students and staff on access control systems and security policies. Even the best system won’t keep out an unauthorized person if teachers or students open a locked door out of a misled sense of being polite. You need to make sure everyone in your school understands your security measures and policies. In addition, encourage everyone in your school to take steps to improve security. This may mean greeting strangers and asking them what their business is, or reporting any suspicious behavior they notice outside the school’s gates. 

First Step: Perform a Safety & Security Audit at Your School

If you think your school may benefit from new access control systems, one of the first steps is to complete a security audit. The Texas School Safety Center offers an audit toolkit to help you with this process. Generally the audit involves using fake “intruders” who try to gain access to the school. Typically they try various doors as well as the main entrance. This step can be incredibly important to determining if current access control solutions work well for the school. If the school fails, it may be time to evaluate the need for newer, more advanced systems. From there, you can provide recommendations to the school district and also develop a plan for what your system needs to help improve school security. 

Choose Wilson Fire for School Security & Life Safety Solutions

School security is important to us all, and we want to keep students safe. If you think your local schools could benefit from updated access control systems, our team at Wilson Fire Equipment is here to help. We’ve been providing quality security and life safety solutions since 1916. We are confident we can find options that suit your needs. Our team works with your budget to design and install life safety systems that work well for your school. Our experts design custom systems to address your unique safety and security concerns. Get in touch today to discuss your needs with our pros and get a free quote