Knowledge Of The District
Campus officials work together when buying first-rate equipment
- By Steve Darragh
- Nov 01, 2016
Situated across the northern Utah city of Ogden, the Weber School District is composed of 45 school facilities, a mix of elementary, junior high and high schools. The district is responsible for the safety and security of over 31,000 students to go along with more than 3,500 faculty and staff as the seventh largest school district in the state.
BRINGING EVERYBODY TOGETHER
The chief concern for these schools is the safety of their students. With
that, there is always a concern for knowing who is on campuses, when
they arrive and leave and if they are supposed to be there or not. Each
school level provides its own focuses, such as elementary schools adding
extra coverage of playgrounds and outdoor areas to make sure
students are secure and only leaving with the right people.
As each individual school spent years buying their own cameras and
DVRs for safety reasons, they eventually gathered with the district’s IT
Department to find a unified solution. Over a couple of years, the IT
Department switched the schools all over to a central VMS, supplying
Axis video encoders to bring the analog system onto a network and
focusing all future efforts on IP cameras.
CALCULATING A FIRST-RATE SOLUTION
While the number of cameras per property varies anywhere from 15 at
a smaller elementary up to 80 or more at a larger high school, the
Weber School District initially used design tools from Axis to determine
an efficient solution now implemented across the board with a
simple mix of network cameras.
In outdoor spaces, the district decided on bullet-style cameras that
help to monitor parking lots and playgrounds. Moving indoors to the
common hallway spaces, mini fixed domes help to capture the interactions
among students in order to deter from any negative activity.
The district relies on the cameras for reactive assistance after any incidents rather than putting the resources and time toward live monitoring.
“Even without watching live,” said Casey Dalpias, systems
engineer for the Weber School District, “we pull up a lot of footage,
and [the schools] pull a lot for fights and so on.”
Centralized at a data center with the IT Department, each school
has fiber infrastructure in place to transmit feeds. The district relies on
a Genetec platform for its video management system to process what
amounts to more than three weeks’ worth of footage from about 945
The priority camera placements are the entrances to school buildings,
so light-sensitive cameras are commonly found in these spaces.
Where windows and doorways are prominent, Dalpias settled on
cameras with the ability to pick up both dark and well-lit areas within
the same image. “It’s got that wide dynamic capture, which is way
better for us so we’re going to actually see out of the doors rather
than just a glare," he said.
Most recently, the district mounted a multi-sensor camera in one of
its gymnasiums, proving that efficiency with one powerful camera can
accomplish the tasks of an entire group of analog cameras. Using its
panoramic view, the district is able to observe the entire basketball
court and bleacher space in 4K resolution.
FILLING UP A BOOK OF REPORTS
“The schools were just so excited to be able to pull footage to show who
hit who between two kids and what happened,” Dalpias said. “Bullying
is a huge issue and they want to figure out what’s going on in those
situations. The cameras have been very valuable for that.”
Minor incidents continue to arise throughout the academic year,
and the schools respond quicker than ever with video evidence supporting
them. When a principal reported that somebody was letting
air out of all of the tires in a section of the parking lot not covered by a
camera, the IT Department swiftly moved in to install one. The result:
a student was instantly caught with clear recognition of their identity.
In a different instance, a group of people came over to one of the
portable units at a school during off hours and started a fire. While
somebody in the area noticed the smoke and called the fire department,
the school was then able to look at the video and identify the
The cameras have added a complimentary resource for the schools
as well when identifying catalysts behind facility problems. When one
school had flooding from a water purifier in a back room, administrators
used footage to reveal that nobody had entered that area for twoplus
days prior. In proving that it was a mechanical error, the manufacturer
had to foot the bill.
“That saved thousands of dollars for the school,” Dalpias said.
“There’d be no way that they’d be able to prove that otherwise without
NETWORK LEARNING CURVE
The results have proven to be numerous for the district, as many
administrators who may have been reluctant at first are now commonly
seen using the footage to solve problems and keep more peaceful
“When we initially started, we have quite a few principals without
cameras in their school. They would say, “We don’t need cameras.
That’s just silly,” Dalpias said. “Those same principals are the ones now
exporting video all the time. They use it so much to resolve conflicts. I
haven’t talked to one principal that hasn’t seen a benefit from it.”
While break-ins, theft and vandalism are of importance, the District
maintains that most significantly they are now prepared for any higher
profile incidents should they occur. Administrators can even access
video on their mobile devices should they get an alarm call.
“I think it’s all been a great deterrent and also a
great way to catch criminal activity,” Dalpias concluded.
“But I feel a lot more confident that if
there were a big incident, that we now have something
to back us up.”
This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Security Today.