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Alabama County Schools Approved for Security Upgrades

Among the security measures listed in the proposal are security cameras, visitor management software, driver’s license scanners, badge printers and controlled access locks at certain doors at each school.

The side of a yellow school bus.
(TNS) - Schools in Limestone County are about to undergo nearly half a million dollars in security upgrades, including additional cameras at school entrances and key cards for students who wish to access certain buildings during the school day.

The Limestone County Board of Education voted unanimously last week to accept a quote from BadgePass to "install controlled access to selected doors throughout the district," according to the request form filed with the agenda item. All told, the project will cost about $480,000, with an additional $25,225 in annual cost expected for maintenance fees.

"We actually looked at this project about four years ago and just didn't have the finances," said Rusty Bates, Limestone County Schools' director of safety, transportation and athletics. "... Now that finances are available, we're wanting to go ahead."

Bates explained most elementary schools already have some of the security measures approved at the June 8 meeting, leaving this project to focus on updating the few that aren't at that level and updating the district's high schools.

Among the security measures listed in the proposal are security cameras, visitor management software, driver's license scanners, badge printers and controlled access locks at certain doors at each school. Bates said the primary focus is on buildings separate from the main school building, such as gyms.

Students, teachers and other personnel will be given key cards that can be used to unlock the doors, and the system will only grant access during designated hours and will keep a record of who uses their key card at which entrance point at what time.

However, Bates said, getting the system up and running is set to take several months to complete, so it could be well into the fall before LCS has the access points ready to go or starts distributing key cards to students.

"You're talking a lot of doors, a lot of cabling," he said. "All of this is done off Wi-Fi, so you've got hard cabling that's gotta be done, locks that's gotta be set — a lot of stuff that has to be put in place in order to get that far along."

Still, LCS officials are excited to be at this point. Bates said implementing the security measures were driven in part by concerns from teachers, principals and administrators, and they're "things that we think are going to make their job easier, make their job safer, make their job better."

Future upgrade

Bates told The News Courier another major security upgrade could be in the works soon. LCS has installed SafeDefend boxes throughout the district, giving faculty and staff access to first-aid and self-defense items in the event of an emergency.

When the boxes were first installed, they were considered first or second generation, and technology has advanced quite a bit since then, Bates said. Currently, accessing reports means driving to each campus and a new hire means visiting each box in person to register them, but Bates said the upgrade will allow a lot more of the work to be done remotely.

The new boxes — part of the fifth and sixth generations of SafeDefend's devices, according to Bates — would also allow for quicker fingerprint reading, more accurate reports and more registered users.

"Our system now is good, don't get me wrong, but this is a far superior system," Bates said.

The board has not approved the SafeDefend upgrade as of Monday, but Bates expected the agenda item to appear for a vote later this summer.

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(c)2021 The News Courier (Athens, Ala.)

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