Washington School District Centralizes Access Control

Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies recently announced that the Bellevue (Wash.) School District has centralized its access control by combining electronics and high-security keys to improve security while also making it easier to manage and control access at several levels.

Although a security system was in place, the district recently undertook steps to finalize an upgrade of the system by putting all schools on a centralized electronic network and changing to a patented, restricted keyway that provides better key control and prevents unauthorized key duplication.

Building perimeters, as well as some interior doors, are being secured by proximity card readers and electrified door hardware. Depending on the opening, either Von Duprin EL98 exit devices or electric strikes are used on the doors.

“On our new schools, all of the exterior doors and some of the interior doors are on the electronic lock system,” said Locksmith R. Dale Hicks. “They are on our network so they can be programmed to unlock in the morning and lock back up after the students arrive.”

In addition, he notes, each school has a “panic button” that can be used to lock down the entire school and prevent anyone from getting in, even if they have someone’s access card.

“One concern we have is that someone could lose a card and another person could try to gain access with it,” Hicks said.

To access the controlled openings, the district issues proximity cards that also serve as ID badges. This makes it fast and easy to add or delete individuals while also ensuring that they carry their cards with them.

“Our badges used to have the name of the site along with the teacher’s name, which made it too easy for someone to use a lost badge,” Hicks said. “Now we just list their name and the school district. Anyone who finds a badge would have to try a lot of doors at different schools and would probably think the badge didn’t work.”

In addition, it can be invalidated as soon as it is reported as lost.

As new schools were being built, the district was running out of bittings with the old key system. Although the district had been using a high-security key system, it had reached the end of its patent protection, so it became necessary to upgrade in order to maintain security. In addition, there was a need to minimize the number of GGM (Great Grand Master) keys in circulation and improve control. Building keys are only issued to building administrators, custodians and the central facility maintenance staff.

The old system had run out of combinations and had no room left for re-keys, even using all seven available keyways. To solve the problem, Hicks worked with James F. Bergman, a key system consultant (KSC) with Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies, to determine how all the keys in the upgraded system would operate throughout the school district. A schematic was developed to illustrate how the new system would work.

The Schlage Everest Primus Level 9Z removable core key system was selected as the new district standard. It offers a legally backed guarantee of geographic exclusivity. The Bellevue School District is the only user in the Pacific Time zone that can get the particular key blanks it uses.

The Everest Primus dual-locking mechanism provides superior pick resistance. The keys feature precision side-bit milling and a large key for easier handling and room for stamping identification. The new key system also has enough capacity to set up two bitting lists for each school, giving him a main list and a backup.

“Schlage requires a Facesheet to be filled out in blue to prevent forgery of the authorized signature,” Hicks said. “It is one of the most user-friendly, quick-learning locks, and it’s virtually impossible to pick. It’s expanded enough for us to get all our schools on one GGM key, which is only issued to a few people.”

Hicks said he likes the stronger construction and larger key bow of the new system. He said that the key blanks are thicker and have a lifetime warranty against key breakage. They have eliminated the previous problem of key breakage when key holders pulled the reverse-bevel doors open with their keys.

To further extend key control throughout the district, teachers’ storage cabinets are equipped with Olympus Cabinet Locks, which accept the same large format interchangeable Schlage Everest Primus cores used on classroom doors. This eliminates the need to issue separate cabinet keys to the teachers.

For added personal safety, the district has specified the Schlage "classroom security" lock as the standard for new projects. This lock allows the teacher or anyone carrying a key under the building master to lock the outside trim of a classroom door from inside the classroom and represents a paradigm shift that all educational facilities should embrace.

The old classroom function with a closed lever made it necessary to open the door and lock it from the outside with a 360 degree key rotation, which is a dangerous activity during a security threat. The new security classroom function eliminates that risk and allows the occupants control of the opening from both sides of the door.

District policies also play a role in maintaining security. All keys are stamped with an ID number, which can be traced back to the individual to whom they were issued. If someone loses a key, a letter goes into that person’s file. This creates higher incentive not to lose keys and improves security. It also minimizes the need for costly re-keying. Hicks uses Sitemaster 200 to track the keys.

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