Keyless in Kansas

Keeping track of keys and knowing the whereabouts of faculty and administrators in a school district that spans 75 square miles, has nearly 4,100 employees and almost 25,000 students can be quite an undertaking. That is what administrators at the Olathe (Kan.) Unified School District 233 discovered with its previous door control equipment, which incorporated a combination of several high-security mechanical key systems. 

Although the previous systems provided greater security than conventional keys, the district wanted to improve key control and simplify the issuance process. 

“Through the years, with staff changes and more keys being given out, it became difficult to get a feeling for who was coming and going in our buildings, especially after hours,” says Tom Lillis, director of operations and facilities for the district. 

Olathe officials realized they needed a better way to manage access to the district’s 31 elementary schools, eight junior high schools, four high schools and 10 support buildings. They determined the best solution was to eliminate keys altogether and embrace the latest in door control technology. 

Card Access System Chosen to Replace Keys
Because key management was such a significant issue, it was determined a card access control solution would be most appropriate. “A card access system would allow us to immediately cancel access of cards that are lost, stolen or not turned in by a former employee,” says Lillis. “Keys allow an individual to have 24-hour access with no record of when he or she comes or goes on off hours. But a card system would enable us to grant the access an employee needs as well as track that employee’s use of the card. We wanted to control what days and what hours access is granted.” 

District officials chose Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies (IR) of Carmel, Ind., to supply the equipment. “We chose IR because of the complete solution they could provide and range of products that met our needs,” says Lillis. “We were particularly interested in a centralized solution that would allow us to control access at all 52 locations from a centralized server. This solution gave us the easiest and greatest control over card access. I can add, delete and modify any access card for any location from my computer.” 

After the decision was made to use IR, the manufacturer quickly went to work developing a comprehensive specification guide for the keyless access control system and door hardware for 52 buildings and approximately 190 door openings. What wound up being installed by Orr Construction Management of Raytown, Mo., was an integrated, open architecture proximity card system from Schlage, together with mechanical hardware from Von Duprin and LCN. 

New Equipment Combines With Policies to Enhance Effectiveness
The access system and mechanical hardware installed was combined with door management policies and procedures designed to enhance the new system’s effectiveness. “Our policy is that all doors are to be kept locked during school hours except the front door, but we also need to provide controlled access from the playground area and for staff and maintenance people, both during the day and after-hours,” adds Lillis. “The card access system allows us to keep all exterior doors locked and direct all public traffic to come in the front door, which is monitored by the school’s office. This provides safety for our students since no unauthorized individual can enter from the side or playground doors. Authorized employees, such as teachers returning students to the building after recess, continue to have the access they need.” 

Minimizing the number of doors through which controlled access is available at each building makes the system more cost effective and easier to manage. Depending on the building, the number of accessible doors ranges from two to five. Lillis notes that only two doors in each building will accept a key, and only the principal and the fire department are issued keys for emergency override use. “On all the other doors, we’ve replaced the cylinders with dummy cylinders or removed the hardware,” he adds. 

Simplified Control Improves Overall Security
Electronic access control improves security and safety throughout the district in several important ways. In an emergency, exit devices provide a safe way out of all doors. However, re-entrance is controlled by card access. 

For example, while on the playgrounds, teachers can monitor and control who goes into the building from the playground doors. Without a card, these doors remain locked at all times, and door position monitors show if a door is open or closed. “We can tell if a door is being used for normal access from the time it is opening and closing,” says Lillis. “But if an alarm is going off for an extended time, we know that either somebody has propped the door open or it isn’t closing and latching properly.” In this way, the system also provides building maintenance information. 

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