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Small schools can improve security in affordable ways

2018-08-06

Small schools can improve security in affordable ways
by Paul Kazlauskas at Visitor Pass Solutions

It’s no secret that school budgets are tight all across America. Resources may decline, but it seems requirements never do. This is especially true in the area of security.

Many small or rural schools feel they are at a competitive disadvantage because they don't have the same grant-writing resources and expertise as bigger or more urban districts. Their concerns came up during a recent conference call hosted by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Rural Education Association to discuss school emergency management and security practices.

While small schools continue to fight for federal grant money to improve school security, there are affordable actions a small or rural school can take, especially when it comes to documenting visitors. 

Here are some ideas:

Assess your security needs
Knowing the full scope of your school’s unique security needs is the first step in planning a visitor management program. Because security is so critical, assessment and planning should be done in partnership with experienced security professionals and/or local law enforcement officials. The security assessment should follow these procedures:

  • Identify potential hazards or threats to the school building
  • Evaluate the current level of risk posed by the threats
  • Consider available resources
  • Decide how to prioritize which threats the school security plan will focus on

Work with local law enforcement
Local law enforcement is a great free resource to consult with when thinking about how to improve school security. Police are well versed on the best practices of visitor management and can help your school understand any risks involved. The goal is to ensure that your chosen solution meets mandated standards, so it is also a good idea to involve officials from the school district office. Some districts, for example, require schools to conduct criminal background checks on regular visitors or any volunteers they accept.

A popular school security planning tactic at the district level is to create an Emergency Management Team. The town’s Emergency Management Team could be made up of the School Superintendent, the Town Manager, the Police Chief, and the Fire Chief. As the town manager, school superintendent and other town officials work on the capital improvement budget, the police chief is included in discussions of school building capital improvements that enhance school safety (e.g., door buzzers, locking doors).

Tap other resources for security funding
If a tight school budget is stopping you from implementing a visitor management procedure, there are ways to get around this school funding issue:

  • Help from your PTO/PTA (or other parent groups). Have your visitor badges paid for by your parent-teacher organization? Each visitor pass can be printed with “Proudly sponsored by (the PTO)”. This bit of branding re-enforces and publicizes their commitment to the local school.
  • Help from your COMMUNITY. Have your visitor passes paid for by a local business. Each visitor pass can be printed with “Proudly sponsored by (ABC Company).”
  • Help from your SCHOOL. Inquire into other areas of your school’s budget for funds, such as facility, building, office supply, or safety budgets.
  • Help from your TOWN. Inquire into other areas of your town’s budget, such as Public Safety, Police (School Resource Officer), or the District.
  • Help from the INTERNET. Pursue government grants and available school funds for security. Here are some helpful links to get you started.

Choose your security tools wisely
If your school can’t afford high-tech security or visitor management systems, a manual visitor sign-in book is a suitable, affordable substitute for documenting visitor traffic. A manual visitor sign-in system is a handwritten way of identifying and tracking the visitors that come into any school. The best systems consist of a visitor’s badge (to be worn by the visitor while on the premises) with an automatic duplicate log book that provides a record of the visitor’s stay and logs such items as their name, the date, time in, time out, and the person visiting/destination. Many manual visitor badges are custom-printed to include the school mascot and school imprint. Manual visitor pass registry books have many benefits:

  • Low cost.
  • Minimum training for staff to be fully functional.
  • Little or no overhead (just pens and a writing surface).
  • Easily access in an emergency evacuation as a register/fire list to let Fire/Police know who is still in the building.

Some types of visitor passes have “time-expiring” technology. This means the visitor passes change color overnight to prevent badge reuse the next day.

Download our Guide to choosing a Visitor Management System

Author: by Paul Kazlauskas

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