As School Safety Concerns Grow, What Role Can Modern Cameras Play? | #schoolsaftey

Oregon District Combines Video Surveillance with Access Control

When Eric Ryan joined Crook County School District as the new technology director in fall 2021, improving security in each school building was one of his top priorities.

Like Lancaster School District, CCSD was relying on older IP-based cameras. During his first week on the job, Ryan toured each school site with the facilities director and school resource officer and discovered that the district needed to improve its camera coverage. He also wanted to make it easier to access and review video footage.

“What I found was that our existing coverage was inadequate,” he says. “For us the real driver for change was making sure school officials and police have visibility and that we were always in sync with what’s going on, so the response time can be as fast as possible.”

To make the Prineville, Ore., district’s nine schools safer, Ryan standardized on an integrated Verkada solution that combines IP-based surveillance cameras, environmental sensors and a door access control system.

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At one high school, for example, he installed 12 Verkada cameras, covering the inside and outside perimeter of the school. He also installed two environmental sensors inside bathrooms, which can detect vaping, motion and sound. The sensors alert school staff via text if they sense vaping or any noises or movement that could indicate an altercation, Ryan says.

CCSD has also standardized on Verkada’s door access control system, which enables staff to use badges to unlock and open doors. When classes are in session, staff at the front desk can press a button to let students in, Ryan says.

Overall, the integrated Verkada solutions allow the district to be proactive, not reactive, Ryan says. If the police department alerts school leaders to be on the lookout for a person trying to enter school facilities and sends a photo, they can put that photo into the system and, through face recognition, be immediately notified if cameras detect the person’s presence, he says.

CCSD has used ESSER and district funds to pay for the upgrades so far. Ryan hopes to continue the momentum and secure grant funding this fall to upgrade remaining schools. A local bond measure is another option.

“We want to create an environment where students feel safe, and we believe we have the visibility to protect them should the need arise,” Ryan says.

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