Security and Access Control for K-12 Schools is Far from Elementary

Striking the right balance between security, convenience and design in K-12 school access control.

by Ron Baer,
Director of Business Development for K-12
ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions

Determining the best K-12 access control solutions continues to be an evolving and complex security challenge. Districts and schools have many individualized requirements and unique procedures to follow.

In-person education is trending away from the days when students all sat facing the teacher at the front of a room with the door closed. Also changing is the reliance on mechanical door hardware alone. Today, it’s about mixed-use indoor/outdoor environments for project-based experiential learning, more light and visibility, and an expanding migration to electronic access control (EAC) solutions. Designing in security for more open spaces, more flexible classroom locations, and more daylighting can be complicated, but it is attainable.

Here’s just a partial list of other security topics on school leaders’ minds:

  • Health and wellness
  • More fluid access
  • Vehicle and pedestrian traffic
  • Visitor entry management
  • Aesthetics
  • Incident response
  • Storm protection
  • Locker and supply security
  • Cost-effective retrofitting

k-12 security

Adding to the complexity, the K-12 process for funding and budget allocation means there’s always cost/efficacy pressure. While total delivered cost is a highly important issue, efficacy is the biggest concern. Is the system accomplishing what was promised to the school, parents, and the board? Administrators and the public need to be able to trust that vendors will deliver a positive educational impact.  This affects how manufacturers and partners do business with districts.

Functional Design Beyond the ABCs
Schools want to deliver quality education and excellent results. So, it’s paramount to consider the effect that security installations have on student behavior, performance, and aspirations.

If a school looks like a stereotypical prison or stark office space, it will feel and be treated like one, especially if students perceive “big brother” has surrounded them with excessive and obtrusive surveillance, detection, and monitoring equipment. On the other hand, if the school can integrate subtler security technology that combines functionality with design that enhances the space, there’s a real opportunity to project a welcoming, creative, and safer environment that’s more conducive to successful outcomes.

At ASSA ABLOY, we have the full scope of solutions that can enhance the look as well as the effectiveness of access and other security issues in K-12 environments, from wireless EAC systems that can be retrofitted incrementally to attractive doors and hardware finishes and attack-resistant glass.

Visibility, Ergonomics, and Holistic Strategies
Not that long ago, a solid, windowless doors were considered a best practice to eliminate intruder visibility and protect against forced entry. However, growing evidence indicates that restricting views and natural light is having a psychologically detrimental effect. The extra light and visibility that glass lets into the classroom space is preferred. To help allay fears of breakage, ASSA ABLOY partners with School Guard Glass to offer attack-resistant door assemblies that provide at least 4 minutes of resistance to ballistic and physical attack, allowing time for first responders to arrive in the event of an emergency.

The pandemic generated heightened awareness for preventative hygiene and the need to minimize doorway touchpoints. ASSA ABLOY touchless (aka no-touch) and low-touch opening solutions have been available for a while but changing times have increased interest. While they may have a limited effect on preventing the transmission of an airborne virus, they can significantly decrease exposure to a host of other germs spread by hand. Plus, they’re more convenient when carrying an armful of books and supplies. Switching to sliding touch-free doors will save space as well as improve ergonomics and aesthetics.

ASSA ABLOY looks at K-12 schools the same way education industry stakeholders do. We consider needs and solutions from a curb-to-core vantage point. When it’s about how to keep kids safe on playgrounds or how to prevent questionable people from wandering onto the property, we focus on perimeter security. Solutions like our fences, bollards, and gate controls discourage random pedestrian and vehicle traffic while providing safe boundaries for students and staff. They also complement a school building’s design.

In the past, electronic access control was often limited to school perimeter doors and vestibule openings. Now, it’s increasingly critical throughout the evolving range of interior spaces. Integrating new doorway assemblies, intelligent locks, and fire code and storm door considerations are all part of the mix.

Best Practices for Planning School Security Advancements
The best way to land on the right set of solutions is to establish a broad, cross-functional team or committee of stakeholders to share and prioritize concerns and needs. It’s also essential to tap into the expertise of ASSA ABLOY from a project’s conception to learn about security innovations and trends. Working together, in conjunction with architects and partners who will be involved in improvement projects, the process becomes smoother and more productive toward developing and implementing the most appropriate safety, security, and wellness strategies.

As the global leader in access solutions, consultative experts from ASSA ABLOY are integral to the discovery and recommendation process. We dive deep into understanding needs and issues and can provide insight and education on solutions and products, as well as alternatives that might not have been considered before.

Taking a collaborative consultative approach is absolutely key to striking the right balance between security and convenience, and design and efficacy, while keeping an eye on the bottom line. It also helps establish trust. So does going the extra mile. If we don’t have an existing solution, we can always rely on our product development team to quickly customize one.

Above all, our overarching goal is to positively contribute to a place where students and teachers feel confident enough to stay focused and engaged, and comfortable enough to enjoy the experience along the way.