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Schools Invest in High-Tech Visitor Systems to Keep Students Safe

The tools allow staff members to see what types of people are coming onto campus and send them away if they pose a risk.

(TNS)  — Some local schools are ditching pen and paper visitor logs and replacing them with technology that can keep unwanted visitors, like sex offenders, out of their buildings.

"Safety is our No. 1 priority. The technology helps us know who we're letting into our buildings and we can stop anyone who might pose a threat to our students or staff," said Mark Fritz, director of operations in the Stow-Munroe Falls Schools District. "Not only does it screen out registered sex offenders, it can also flag people with custodial or protection orders."

In recent years, the use of safety and security measures has grown in schools. School officials agree that managing and monitoring visitors at school buildings is the first line of defense in protecting students and staff.

Some, like Stow-Munroe Falls and Kent, have opted to use a visitor management system. Others, including Akron Public Schools, are exploring the use of such a system. But some, such as Springfield Local Schools, have found such a system to be cost-prohibitive.

The visitor management system, which has been in use at Stow-Munroe Falls High School for five years and subsequently added at other district buildings, requires visitors to have their state or federal identification scanned. The system checks the identification against a national database of registered sex offenders. The system can also be set to check other databases created by the school or district.

Once the visitor is cleared, a visitor badge is printed that includes a photo, the visitor's name, the date, time of entry and the visitor's destination.

If the visitor is not cleared, the system can send direct messages to school resource officers and administrators.

Sex offender flagged

Three years ago, the system at Stow-Munroe Falls High School flagged a worker as a sex offender.

"We had a roofing company in here doing some work. We ran the IDs of all the workers through the system and one came back as being a registered sex offender," Fritz said. "We went to the guy in charge and said this guy can't be on school property."

Last year, Kent City Schools began using the same system as Stow-Munroe Falls at Roosevelt High School. Jim Soyars, director of business services in the Kent district, said that in addition to the sex offender background check, the system allows the school to keep track of who is in the building.

"If we need to evacuate the building, we have a record of anyone who is visiting in the building and their location," Soyars said. "So far, it's worked really well for us. It gives us a better comfort level of safety, knowing who's in the building."

Dan Rambler, Akron Public Schools' director of student services, said the district is evaluating the use of the technology and plans to try it out this fall.

"We're looking at putting it in at a couple of non-school buildings, like the administration building, to determine how it could best work for us," Rambler said. "We know it would add a layer of security and a layer of efficiency, but we want to make sure we have a support system in place for our staff who would be in charge of checking in visitors."

After looking at the system at Stow-Munroe Falls High School, which allows visitors to enter the building before their identification is scanned at a reception desk or in the office, Rambler said the Akron district is exploring ways to scan identifications while visitors are inside locked alcove areas.

"We want to be strategic in the implementation, by looking at the system and how it will work on a building-by-building basis," Rambler said. "We also want to make sure we're responsible in investing taxpayer dollars."

Cost per building

The system could cost $7,000 per building in Akron, Rambler said.

That cost could exceed $10,000 per building, depending on the type of hardware needed, said Dustin Boswell, business manager in the Springfield Local School District.

"We have looked into using one of the visitor management systems, but it was cost prohibitive," Boswell said. "What we have done is upgrade our security by adding electronic locks, fob readers and video conference monitoring, so that our secretaries can see visitors before letting them into the building."

Visitors do not have direct access to Springfield's joint middle school and high school facility. Instead, they must enter through the school office.

At Stow-Munroe Falls High School, visitors use a buzzer and intercom system to speak with the receptionist, Julie Archer. Once Archer assesses who the visitor is and the purpose of the visit, she unlocks the door electronically. The visitor then goes to the reception desk or school office for a visitor's badge.

"I'm the one letting people in the door, so I feel an enormous amount of responsibility in protecting our students," Archer said. "The system for scanning their IDs is extra protection. It definitely beats the old system of handwritten badges."

Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or She can be followed at

©2016 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.