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Keyscan’s access control system safeguards Niagara District Catholic School Board
The ability to lock and unlock doors throughout the building with the Keyscan system has given the schools the ability to keep all perimeter doors locked down
Each of the schools that have the Keyscan system are equipped with readers on four perimeter doors per school

School security has quickly become one of the most controversial and alarming issues of our time. With all of the unique conditions found in a school setting, finding the right solution that encompasses all elements of secured access control while being easy to use and integrate into normal school operation can be an intimidating task. Faced with the challenge of securing their schools, the Niagara District Catholic School Board never imagined they would find a system that not only secured their students and facilities, but also saved money, while increasing the satisfaction of parents within their school community.

The Niagara Catholic District School Board (NCDSB) with their board office located in Welland, Ontario, Canada, consists of approximately 70 schools, both elementary and secondary over a wide geographical area. The need for better security within the schools was mandated by the Ontario government about three years ago. The Provincial Ministry of Education made grants available to any school that did not have a clear view from the office to the main entrance to have cameras and intercom systems installed. Their mandate was however, that any school that received this grant money must keep their entire premises locked down at all times.

For the NCDSB this posed a problem. Mr. Sergio Cassolato, Coordinator of Protective Services for the NCDSB commented, “We had to figure out how that would work. If the school is locked down, how does the staff enter the building? What if the secretary isn’t in the area?” The project quickly became much more involved than a simple camera capable intercom. The NCDSB awarded the contract to Bulldog Fire and Security, a respected security and fire systems integrator from Kitchener, Ontario who had proposed a complete security and access control package. For Mr. Joe McCann, the lead sales person working with the NCDSB, Keyscan was the obvious choice. “As an access control system it is phenomenal. It’s got everything you could possibly want to deliver.”

The Keyscan access control system was integrated with an IP camera and intercom system so that teachers and secretaries would have the ability to speak directly with and have a visual of anyone trying to enter the school. Since the secretary at the main office was not always available, the school board was able to integrate the intercom system through the phone system and Keyscan system, to allow teachers throughout the school to grant access to the front door. The ability to lock and unlock doors throughout the building with the Keyscan system has given the schools the ability to keep all perimeter doors locked down during school hours, ensuring the safety of their students. A piezo buzzer was installed at each door to notify users to close the doors, so that false door held open alarms were not an issue. Each school site is connected through the board’s wide area network and administered by a small team at the board office. They also use the Keyscan Photo Badging module to equip their entire staff with photo identification badges, adding an extra level of security.

With a system of this size and such a wide array of card holders, the potential for confusion and uncertainty could become an issue. “With the Keyscan system you don’t get those complaints” said Mr. Ron Landry, Bulldog Operations Manager. “It has all of the features, and is extremely easy to use.” To make the system even easier to use at the schools, Bulldog plans to utilise Keyscan’s Present 3 function. “With the present 3 enabled, each school will be able to arm and disarm their alarm system on site without using a four digit code” says Mr. James Woods, Controller of Plant Services for the NCDSB. The school’s alarm system can be armed by the last person leaving the building very easily, giving more flexibility to the site.

The first school that was fully outfitted by Bulldog with the complete security solution was a test for the school board to see how the system would function. They soon discovered additional benefits to the access control system. "The main thing that has saved a lot of time and money is no longer having to provide exterior keys,” says Mr. Cassolato. “If a key was lost, it would involve changing the entire site, and providing new keys to the principal, maintenance staff, and all of the community groups. Now that it is individually based, if someone has lost their card you can easily archive it, without having to go down to the site or worrying who might have found it and who has access to the building.” The cost to re-key a school before the Keyscan access control system was installed could range from $500—$1000, with some schools needing to be re-keyed several times a year. As well, the presence of the access control system has considerably increased control over the use of the building. As in many districts, the school facilities are often rented by various community groups. With the Keyscan access control system, these groups have their building access limited to their allotted time in a way that traditional keys could never provide.

“We can now control who is in the school, even at lunch and recess we know that kids can’t be wandering the hallways. It is a great system and it works well”

As in any school environment, vandalism was a major concern for the school board. Bulldog was also faced with the task of making the system functional and easy to use, while ensuring that it could not easily be tampered with. The readers were mounted behind security glass and the wires run inside the door mullion, eliminating the need for unsightly conduit or exposed wiring chases.

The first installation was extremely well received, and subsequently all of the NCDSB elementary schools and the board office have been equipped with the full security solution by Bulldog. “It took us about 6 months to get all of the elementary schools done; once we were there they just kept adding and adding and adding,” commented Ron Landry of Bulldog. Each of the schools that now have the Keyscan system are equipped with readers on an average of four perimeter doors per school. “We get requests from Principals all the time to expand their access control beyond the perimeter doors to equipment rooms, IT/Sever rooms and file rooms,” remarked Mr. Cassolato.

The service and solutions that Bulldog has provided to the NCDSB have left a lasting impression. “We have been working with them closely and they have been extremely helpful,” said Mr. Cassolato about the project. “My main concern is service and they have been great. I have been very pleased with their entire support staff.” With Mr. Cassolatoas only one of many happy Bulldog customers, it is not surprising that they have recently been recognised by Profit Magazine as one of the fastest growing companies in Canada.

With all of the possible systems the school board could have used, they chose Keyscan to protect their children. They have been extremely happy with the results, and continue to add new systems. NCDSB presently has over 130 doors secured by Keyscan and are in the process of equipping all of their secondary schools with the Keyscan Access Control. “Keyscan is going to be in all of our buildings within the next year,” said Mr. Cassolato, who has seen up close, how significant a difference the implementation of an access control system can make on school communities. “I have parents asking me all the time when their school will be up and running. [The system] has really given parents greater peace of mind dropping their children off at school.” Holy Name elementary school Principal Mr. Anthony Cardamone can attest to the success of the system. “Prior to having the access system our doors were open to the general public. We can now control who is in the school, even at lunch and recess we know that kids can’t be wandering the hallways. It is a great system and it works well.”

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