Schools are intended to be a safe place, fostering a sense of security among students. But balancing a welcoming environment with security measures to protect the school and those inside is challenging.

The Washington Township School District, located in Gloucester County, N.J., prides itself on the balance it offers students across its 11 facilities. In fact, the district was recognized by the Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem County School Districts Joint Insurance Fund (GCSSSDJIF) as the 2017-18 Safety District of the Year. This recognized Washington Township’s active role in ensuring the safety of its students and staff through critical risk management decisions.

Bob Schoenfeldt, operations director for Washington Township School District, is essential in keeping students safe with the latest security solutions. He’s implemented a variety of best practices to ensure the well-being of students and faculty, like developing a safety committee for the district. When it was time to upgrade the schools’ hardware, Schoenfeldt worked with his Allegion representative to develop a premier security solution for the district utilizing Schlage NDE, LE and AD-Series wireless electronic locks and Sielox, a leading access control software provider. The solution enables efficient monitoring and lockdown capabilities and ties into Sielox’s Class system, an easily deployed crisis management solution that provides real-time status updates during an emergency. This solution connected all of the interior Schlage locks to the Sielox system, but the school was still manually controlling their perimeter doors.

In K-12 facilities, mechanical dogging (unlocking) and undogging (locking) is prominent at arrival and dismissal time to facilitate the flow of traffic. A door is dogged, or unsecured, when the push pad of the exit device is depressed on the interior side of the door and a key is rotated to keep the push pad in that position. This allows students and staff to freely enter the school from the perimeter during specific periods like bus arrival or sporting events. When the only way to secure, or undog, a door is to physically lock it, after-school events also require staff to be onsite to lock up the facility once guests leave for the evening. This manual management leaves openings subject to human error.

“You can’t always count on someone releasing the dogging mechanism on the door,” Schoenfeldt said. “Things happen. Teachers may be diverted to something else and a door is left open.”

To enhance security, Washington Township decided to implement the Von Duprin Remote Undogging (RU) upgrade kit from Allegion on the front entrance exit devices at one of its locations. When paired with an access control software provider like Sielox, the Von Duprin upgrade solution is designed to affordably extend access control to perimeter openings and eliminate manual mistakes.

Washington Township installed Von Duprin RU kits at Wedgwood Elementary. Students are funneled into the building through three pairs of doors at the front of the building, which then lead to a secure vestibule. There’s a glass partition with another set of doors that open to the lobby. Schoenfeldt decided to install the solution on two of the main entrance doors and two of the vestibule doors.

CM3 Building Solutions integrated the Von Duprin solutions with the Sielox software. This allows the school to monitor and even lockdown these doors at any time, along with the rest of the locks that are connected to the access control software.

“Controlling access is a critical part of a school’s efforts to provide a safe learning environment, and it begins with a secure perimeter — from the main entrance to secondary openings,” said Yong Lacy, Allegion Americas category leader, openings. “Allegion developed the Von Duprin RU to help schools improve perimeter security within budget. We want to provide schools like Wedgwood comfort knowing that they’re able to monitor and lockdown these doors remotely.”

The Von Duprin RU retrofit kit for exit devices enables remote locking (undogging) for centralized lock down. This enables staff to initiate an immediate campus-wide lockdown from a secured location instead of putting themselves in harm’s way to manually undog exit-device doors throughout the building. Integrated request to exit (RX), latch bolt (LX) and door position switch (DPS) signals are included in the kit to provide real-time remote monitoring and confirmation of the security status of the door.

“If you have to dog or undog a door manually during crisis, you are exposing maintenance staff and teachers who have to leave a safe space to lock that door” said Mark Evans, executive vice president of Sielox. “If a school has 20 exit devices to check, that’s going to take more time than an active shooter event. Now, with the Von Duprin RU kit, you limit exposure of your staff.”

Installing the Von Duprin RU kit over summer break in 2018 provided the school peace of mind. The solution eliminates human error and provides greater monitoring and control over their high-traffic openings.

“The custodian dogs the doors open and doesn’t have to go back,” Schoenfeldt said. “They self-lock within 5-10 minutes after the buses drop off students.”

The school uses the scheduling feature, which allows Schoenfeldt and his team to identify times during the week that the doors should be locked. Aside from the morning routine, this has proven especially helpful for events like Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) meetings and after-school activities. Schoenfeldt says it’s simple to implement the schedules. Once the principal provides him the usage calendar, he’s able to set up everything in the Sielox software.

“We don’t have to put anyone at the door for night usage now,” he said. “By putting this hardware on the front doors for PTO meetings, a musical or something in the cafeteria, we’re able to schedule remote lockdown toward the end of the event.”