Ina A. Colen Academy, founded in 2020, is a tuition-free public charter school of choice in Ocala, Fla. The academy educates children in kindergarten through 8th grade. Ian A. Colen Academy encourages students to develop understanding and empathy for others through project-based learning, social-emotional learning and the whole child approach.

In March of 2021, Ina A. Colen Academy partnered with Crime Prevention Security Systems (CPSS) on a $2.4 million integration project to establish a brand new security system on the academy’s four building campus. The extensive integration included access control, camera surveillance, telecommunications wiring, an intercom system, PA system, smart boards, Bluetooth speaker classroom systems and an A/V systems. The project was one of two runners up in the 2023 SDM Project of the Year Award competition.

The project was negotiated by the Colen Family Charitable Trust in the Calesa Township master-planned community. CPSS has a long-standing relationship with the Colen Built team, having worked on both residential and commercial projects with them for 15 years. The Colen Built project manager contacted CPSS during the design phase, requesting that the company provide design services for this project. Based on their prior experience with the CPSS team and the design services provided on this project, the Colen Family Charitable Trust chose the company as their security integrator.

CPSS was founded in 1975 in Gainesville, Fla., by the husband-and-wife team John Pastore and Randi Elrad. At that time, John worked as a researcher and Randi worked as a teacher. Randi discovered a security product that they installed for her own peace of mind and quickly decided to offer this solution to others. They began to build a team shortly after starting the business.

CPSS grew organically, serving primarily residential clients. In 1990, the college town of Gainesville was rocked by a series of student murders, committed by the serial killer Danny Rolling, also known as the Gainesville Ripper. In response, CPSS provided security systems to many apartment complexes throughout Gainesville, securing students in their individual units. These were the first of many large commercial projects.

Of the Ina A. Colen Academy project, Jorgia Wooten, vice president, CPSS, said, “The primary purpose of this project is to provide life safety protection to our most vulnerable members of society: our children. Our integrated solution provides the school staff, children and parents with peace of mind. The training we provided helped ensure that the customer had a full understanding of the procedures that needed to be in place to ensure that the technology could do its job in safeguarding the school.”

The integration project was launched in March 2021 and completed 18 months later in August 2022. Having spanned the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the project was adversely effected by the accompanying supply chain stress. Wooten said, “Supply chain issues made the installation of this project challenging for all trades, including ours. For example, we installed over 100 wireless access control locks, which were backordered for nearly a year. Our team installed temporary locks, which we then replaced systematically upon their arrival.”

The project integrated LenelS2 access control, Digital Watchdog cameras and the DSC Neo Pro for a seamless experience for the academy. CPSS said it chose the LenelS2 access control system because of its scalability, allowing them to provide access control to nearly every door on campus. All the exterior doors and many interior doors utilized wired card readers and devices, while over 100 interior doors utilized wireless locks.

Digital Watchdog was chosen because of its enterprise level capabilities, allowing CPSS to install a large quantity of cameras throughout the campus. Digital Watchdog’s Spectrum software is an interface that staff at the Ina A. Colen Academy have found to be intuitive and comprehensive.

CPSS also installed Lightspeed’s Topcat speaker solution in all classrooms and group learning areas. This system allows students to better hear and understand their teachers within the classroom. When students break out into groups, teachers can also utilize learning pods that allow them the ability to listen to their students, speak with their students and receive a notification when students have a question.

The project also includes a service contract with CPSS that provides Ina A. Colen Academy with: 24/7 remote support; remote management of the access control, camera system and security system; onsite services; annual onsite training for all administrative and teaching staff; onsite A/V services for all major events; and all licensing renewal fees.

Jim Walkup, project manager, Colen Built Development, said CPSS has always gone above and beyond. Walkup specifically praised the integrator's communication: whether it was footage of drivers performing donuts in the parking lot, students falling and injuring themselves, or individuals being on location when they shouldn’t be, when CPSS has a concern they notify Walkup. He continued to say that CPSS added cameras or adjusted cameras as needed, and has provided exactly the training needed for the end users’ use and the safety of the children.

As for the training, Wooten said, “On the customer support side, our team was committed to providing white glove service to the administration and teachers at the Ina A. Colen Academy. We provided group training classes followed by individual training sessions with power users and all of the teachers. Our team remained onsite during the first several weeks of school to provide additional support. Prior to the start of school, our team provided extensive training to the administration and teachers, ensuring that they had the knowledge and skills to utilize the technology included in this project.” — Christopher Crumley, SDM Staff Editor