Improving Schools

Improving Schools

How to integrate automation and controls seamlessly

With 80 million students in schools across the United States, it’s becoming increasingly important that schools take advantage of the rapidly advancing technology available to them. Today, pen and paper information tracking and communication methods are no longer efficient or even capable of meeting the needs of our schools and student populations. Rather than relying on manual tracking and communication, schools should invest in solutions that automate these processes. Implementing these new technologies and procedures can feel intimidating, but they don’t have to be. Ultimately, these changes will create a more organized and reliable environment for teachers, students, and administrators.

Automated Alerting
One of the first steps that administrators should take to improve automation within their schools, is to integrate their existing technologies all onto a single automated alerting platform. This includes fire/smoke detection, door access control, security cameras, phones, PA systems, and more. Even a school’s desktop monitors and TVs can be tied into the platform. When these disparate systems are tied together, they can be used and monitored simultaneously, helping to automate many processes.

For example, many schools use door access control systems to manage who is coming in and out of their buildings. Many of these systems still require that someone stays at the front doors to see who is there to permit or deny entrance. Instead, when this system is tied into the same platform as the rest of the school’s technology, this process can be automated to save time and improve safety. Rather than waiting by the doors, an employee can receive an alert on their phone containing detailed information such as “Entry request at entrance 1.”

e alert can even contain live video feed pulled from the security cameras at the entrance. Now an employee is able to permit access directly from their phone with the push of a button from anywhere in the building. Not only is this safer than an employee being visible from the entrance, but it gives them the ability to do more than sit and wait for someone to arrive.

In our current climate, this can be especially important when maintaining a safe and secure environment for students. A goal of every school across the nation is not only getting students back to class but keeping them there. Automated alerting is another tool for helping eliminate in-person contact.

Mass Notification
Once a school is equipped with an automated alerting platform, they can use mass notification. Mass notification is perfect for getting the right information to the right people in the shortest amount of time. A school can upload the contact information of their faculty, student base and their students’ parents/guardians.

If there is a school closing, assembly announcement, new information regarding school COVID-19 protocols, or the need to communicate anything, it can be done quickly and easily. Administrators can even send notifications to assigned groups, such as the boys’ basketball team and their parents, all teachers, the seventh grade class, etc.

This can be especially useful in the event of an emergency. If there is an unexpected school evacuation or lockdown, the information moves quickly, but it is not always accurate. Rather than parents panicking and showing up to the school or calling in, they can be given the right information as soon as possible with mass notification. These detailed notifications can arrive via text message, voice call, email, or all three for increased redundancy. This gives parents peace of mind and allows for a direct line of communication, rather than word of mouth.

Mass notification is also useful for addressing non-emergency situations before they become a major problem. For example, if a cafeteria refrigerator is being monitored, when the temperature drops below a safe level, an alert can be sent out to the maintenance staff and administration. When made aware of this problem, school staff can remedy the situation before the food spoils, preventing major monetary losses and the urgent problem of replacing the food supply for the school to be able to operate as normal.

In-room Communication Portal and Analytics Dashboard
When a school is using an alerting platform, an in-room communication portal and analytics dashboard can be implemented and tied in as well. An in-room communication portal can receive important safety alerts like the school’s other devices, but it also automates and simplifies many processes for teachers and school personnel, such as recording attendance, providing students a bathroom pass, and even monitoring students’ moods and behavior.

When all of this information is recorded using the in-room portal, it can then be pulled and automatically organized for easy viewing on the analytics dashboard. This allows for school personnel to keep track of the information that’s important to them, so they are able to take action on any concerning trends or patterns that emerge.

Plenty of schools use physical bathroom passes so personnel can determine if students have been permitted to leave their classrooms, however, a physical bathroom pass does little to keep track of students’ behaviors and they don’t help in case of an emergency such as a fire, lockdown, or evacuation. Instead, a virtual hall pass can be given to students through the in-room communication portal.

When a student needs to exit the classroom, their teacher can mark that specific student as being out of the classroom. Not only is how long a student is leaving their classes, but if an emergency situation were to arise, the whereabouts of that student would be known. For instance, if the school were to go into lockdown, the student could enter the nearest classroom and that teacher could mark them as accounted for, letting the school and first responders know their status.

In-room Communications
Having safeguards in place for emergencies is undoubtedly important, but an in-room communication portal is also perfect for the more everyday situations. One of the most important and difficult things for teachers is keeping their students’ attention. Constant disruptions can make this difficult and can be a huge disservice to students’ learning.

However, with an in-room communication portal, many daily interruptions can be avoided. Instead of a teacher receiving a call to their room’s desk phone or a person coming to their classroom, non-emergency alerts can be sent directly to their in-room portal.

For example, if a student’s lunch has been dropped off at the main office, rather than someone being sent to the room, an alert can be sent so the teacher can address the situation at the appropriate time so as to not interrupt their lesson. Not only is this more efficient than having hallway runners or people making calls to classrooms, but it helps create a better learning environment.

An in-room portal is also great for monitoring and recording students’ moods, an important indicator of potential mental health, or other problems. When each teacher records their students’ daily mood in their classroom, it can help determine if a student needs help.

For instance, if a student is marked as consistently showing up to a particular class in a bad mood or shows up to all their classes in a bad mood on a particular day of the week, this should be addressed as this student could be experiencing bullying, problems at home, or another stressor. When this data is displayed, it reveals patterns that could have easily gone unnoticed otherwise, but when it’s made readily available it allows school personnel to intervene to get to the bottom of the problem.

By investing in technology that helps automate and streamline schools’ day to day and emergency processes, administrators are able to improve their school’s safety, communication, and operations. This can give faculty, students, and parents/guardians peace of mind, knowing that no matter the situation, it can be dealt with quickly and efficiently.

This article originally appeared in the March / April 2021 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

Digital Edition

  • Campus Security & Life Safety Magazine - May June 2021

    May / June 2021

    Featuring:

    • Reducing Response Time
    • The Classroom Advantage
    • Preparing Your Campus
    • Protecting Digital Data

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