School Security Cameras and Access Control Case Study: Notre Dame High School

Just The Facts:

Customer: Notre Dame High School

Location: Alameda, California

Challenge: Securing four buildings on campus, including the Congregation of Holy Cross Church, Notre Dame High School, and the new STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) building.

Funding: School Safety Grants from the federal government.

Solution: Developing an access control and surveillance system that keeps 1,230 students safe and secure.

Results: State-of-the-art access control and surveillance camera system that protects the entire campus from crime. 

Customer Challenge

A premier school known for academics and sports excellence cannot afford to be overtaken by crime.

Such was the case for Notre Dame High School, a premier Catholic secondary school founded by the Brothers of the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1947. 

This prestigious college preparatory school is renowned for its rigorous academic programs and outstanding basketball legacy. In fact, the school has produced notable alumni, including Jason Frederick Kidd, a former NBA player who is currently the head coach for the Dallas Mavericks.

Maintaining this exceptional record demands a top-tier security system that keeps its 1,230 students and staff safe before, during and after school.

School leadership identified school security as a top priority despite the buildings being in an affluent area, untouched by the nation’s rising crime rates. The major issue was the security of students as they walked across campus to attend classes in the high school’s new STEAM building or services at the Brothers of the Congregation of Holy Cross Church.

“Students have to move from building to building throughout the neighborhood to attend classes, making it critical to secure the campus,” says Zachary Palmquist, Safe and Sound Security project manager.

Initially, school officials asked the security system installer and integrator to install access control at perimeter entry areas. That way if there was an active shooter or other security event, they could lock down the facility with the push of a button, Palmquist explains. 

“On our initial site walk, we mentioned how cameras work with access control and alarm systems, and how a visitor management system works. The project grew quickly, going from just access control to a full security system with cameras, alarms, guest management, intercoms, and vape sensors.”

The new security system, which took two years to develop, uses these Verkada technologies:

  • Verkada Security Cameras with analytics detection capabilities
  • Verkada Visitor Management
  • Verkada Cloud-Managed Access Control
  • Verkada alarm systems on all buildings
  • Verkada Video Management Software
  • Verkada SV23 Air Quality Sensors

 “All of these technologies integrate with the cameras so that when something happens, the cameras capture footage of the entire incident,” he says. 

Innovative Surveillance and Analytics

Before the project, the high school relied on an antiquated legacy analog system for security. The new system added 102 Verkada security cameras, secured 30 doors, and included various motion sensors and door contact alarms.

Verkada cameras utilize edge-based analytics to detect and filter individuals based on various attributes, such as clothing, color, apparent sex, and bags. This provides a comprehensive People Analytics feature that allows very granular people detection. For example, school officials could search video footage for every person wearing a blue shirt and black pants. Once found, they can track the individual as he or she moves throughout the building. 

Verkada cameras also allow security administrators to identify and monitor People of Interest. They simply upload their faces into the system and then receive real-time alerts every time the individual is spotted on camera. 

The integrated system also tracks all entries and exits. School officials know who is using their access cards to enter and leave the building and the cameras capture video footage of every entry or exit.

Because the system integrates with all alarms and motion sensors, the system tracks unauthorized entries automatically. Palmquist explains, “If there’s ever an alarm event, we can take a live look at the area where the alarm event occurred.”

Access Control and Guest Management

Safe and Sound Security’s team also installed Verkada Visitor Management. 

Now when a visitor arrives, they press a doorbell that rings the office staff. Once personnel answer, they use the intercom to speak with the guest and walk them through the next steps, which include scanning their ID into the system.

The system runs the visitor’s ID through various criminal databases, sex offender registries, and the school’s Persons of Interest list. If the visitor has a criminal record or is forbidden from entering, the system rejects their entry and sends a security alert. 

Overcoming Installation Challenges

Though installation posed few significant issues, Palmquist admits aging buildings presented a few issues.

He explains school officials were focused on perimeter security, which was impacted by the age of its buildings. In the past, the high school connected to the church and functioned as a dwelling for the nuns. The locks of this building’s doors were worn down due to the use of outdated magnetic keys.

Palmquist says the constant metal-to-metal contact of magnetic keys in locks causes malfunctions and frequent replacements, with each replacement having a $3,000 to $4,000 price tag.

To avoid the expense of replacing faulty locks, the school switched to card readers for every door. Now every student receives an ID badge on a lanyard, which also functions as a card reader for the doors.

“They also gave students the ability to use their smartphones as credentials because the Verkada readers use Bluetooth technology as well,” he says. 

The system lets school officials set schedules for every door. This allows the doors to unlock on a schedule, such as when students are coming to school or leaving or during passing periods. If a student needs to use the restroom while in class, they must present their access control badge to unlock the door.

“All restrooms have access control panels on them and are locked all the time,” Palmquist explains. “With this system, the school can secure everything during class time. No one can get onto campus and there is an activity log of who is going where. If a student says he or she needs to use the bathroom but is instead wandering the school, there is a record of that.”  

Cable installation was also complicated. Unlike newer schools, this school lacked drop-tile ceilings that simplify cable installation.

“This facility had plaster walls and ceilings,” he says. “Being able to get cables from Point A to Point B took some real maneuvering. We had to run cable underneath the subfloor through building vents. There was no attic space on the first floor to run cables through.”  

The installers also struggled with network connectivity. To address this, Safe and Sound Security collaborated with the school’s IT team to implement Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs). This allowed all systems to communicate seamlessly, Palmquist says.

Getting a Handle on Smoking and Vaping

The National Youth Tobacco Survey, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported some encouraging news in 2023. Fewer high school students are using e-cigarettes. In fact, there were over half a million fewer students vaping compared to 2022. 

Despite the encouraging statistic, many teens still vape, prompting the prestigious educational institution to discourage vaping and smoking in its bathrooms. Safe and Sound Security installed Verkada SV23 Air Quality Sensors and placed a security camera outside each bathroom.

Verkada sensors track air quality, while the camera system records people entering and leaving the bathroom during high vape index events. Employees receive alerts about the high vape index and can use their phones to identify the students involved. 

“The school has virtually eliminated vaping and smoking in the bathrooms,” Palmquist says. “The events are few and far between now.” 

Managing the New System

 “Entering all student and staff records into the Verkada platform would have taken considerable time,” Palmquist says.

Fortunately, the high school’s use of Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing platform, simplified this task. Verkada’s integration with Microsoft Azure allowed Safe and Sound Security to swiftly transfer the staff and student directory into the access control system.

“We downloaded their full database into Verkada Cloud-Managed Access Control,” Palmquist says. “The benefit is they don’t have to manage two databases. When a class graduates, the system automatically removes these students from the system and pulls their access credentials. There is an onboarding process for the incoming freshman class, but they simply do what they always have. Enter the information into the Azure platform which automatically syncs with Verkada. 

Where They Go From Here

Safe and Sound Security will monitor the operational system going forward, promptly addressing any issues or alerts to ensure optimal performance. Palmquist explains a comprehensive service level agreement (SLA) ensures maintenance is covered.

The cloud-based Verkada system grants backend access to all devices for remote repairs. In the absence of a remote solution, Safe and Sound Security dispatches technicians to resolve the issue and provide replacement parts if necessary. Technicians also come out annually to clean and test systems.

Takeaways

The partnership between Safe and Sound Security and Notre Dame High School prioritizes the safety and security of students, staff, and visitors. 

The campus is now safer with a comprehensive surveillance and access control system in place. Every element of the security infrastructure has been meticulously planned to address the school’s specific challenges, including state-of-the-art Verkada cameras with advanced analytics, and innovative solutions for vaping detection, guest management, and access control. 

The result? A premier security system that is on par with the prestigious school’s top-tier education and athletic programs.

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