Access Solutions: More Than A Checkpoint On Your School Doors

Prioritizing the modernization of access solutions in educational facilities will help bolster the safety and security of occupants in these environments.

By Jeremy Saline

In light of the unpredictable nature of threats facing today’s educational institutions, the role of access solutions in securing and protecting occupants is continually called into the conversation. And with the many technological advancements of recent years, access control systems can often alleviate top-of-mind concerns for many educational facilities.

With strategic implementation, these access solutions do more than just provide a checkpoint for your facilities. They streamline mobility between spaces, secure restricted areas, provide visibility into who has access to those areas, and, most importantly, provide durable security and safe egress in the case of an active threat.

School, Access Control
(Photo: Adobe Stock / Monkey Business)


Modernizing access control in educational facilities can seem like a daunting task, but there are many resources available to support educational institutions as they navigate security upgrades and access control deployments.

It’s Time To Upgrade

The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS), an organization offering free comprehensive best practices specifically for securing K-12 facilities on a nationwide scale, updated its 2023 Safety and Security Guidelines to provide a modernized roadmap for implementing a layered and tiered approach to enhancing school security.

Modernizing access control in educational facilities can seem like a daunting task, but there are many resources available to support educational institutions as they navigate security upgrades and access control deployments.

These PASS School Safety and Security Guidelines include a reassessment and clarification of the safety “tiers” outlined in PASS guidelines that are intended to be uniformly implemented throughout the United States. In addition to clarifying the tiers, the PASS guidelines also recommend that all schools and districts work toward Tier One measures regardless of location, budget, or risk profile.

Additionally, the guidelines modernized recommendations for solutions to secure exterior openings to include updated code-compliant door hardware and access control equipment. Some of these updates include recommending that exterior doors be secured with working mechanical (or electronic) exit devices that are ADA and building-code compliant and should be electronically monitored to indicate whether the door is open or closed. The guidelines also suggest that primary exterior entrances should have electronic access control both to streamline key inventory and to enhance the administration’s access control visibility.

In response to tragic events and updated PASS guidelines, school systems across the U.S. are taking action to upgrade their physical security and integrate access solution upgrades into their budget in the coming years. The change can be seen in the long-term planning of various school districts throughout the country purchasing security equipment and new technology:

  • Guilford County, North Carolina – Allocating $6 million of its critical safety and technology upgrade funding to locking systems and alert technology.
  • Loudon County, Virginia – Enhancing school security with projects at a cost of $38.1 million as well as planning a security project estimated at $14.5 million to upgrade intrusion detection systems and exterior door electronic access locks for its campuses.
  • Seattle, Washington – Investing $67 million to replace an existing facility with a facility that features innovative security vestibules at each entry point to control individuals who enter and/or exit the facility.

Making The Best Choice

Upgrading security measures has been a long-standing priority for school systems, but streamlining the upgrade process is an entirely new ballpark. Determining a starting point is the first step.

Different areas of facilities require key features found in specific solutions. Making the best selection will require you to take a deeper look into a number of details, including foot traffic volume, the location of each access point and the spaces they secure, and the levels of access rights that need to be implemented.

The answers to these questions will help narrow your choices to solutions within the applicable code regulations and the hardware grade. Still, within those available choices, selecting the most appropriate device may be a challenge. Although there are many choices of traditional hardware that are known and trusted, today’s electronic options elevate the standard of existing solutions:

  • Stand-alone keypad locks: Keypad locks offer basic access control capabilities via scanned or numeric credentials and are controlled and programmed by visiting the door.
  • Intelligent Wi-Fi locks: Compatible with multiple credential types, Intelligent Wi-Fi solutions leverage the existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to program and monitor locks, significantly reducing installation costs and making it easier and more affordable to expand a facility’s access control footprint to more doors.
  • Real-time wireless locks: These solutions operate with a “hub” near the opening, offering real-time visibility into the status of openings. Real-time wireless locks are compatible with multiple credential types, and although the hub is wired into the facility’s access control system, the locks are not wired to the hub. These locks allow the installer to run wires or use an existing Cat 5 cable in a drop ceiling without needing to open up or drill into a wall.
  • Wired access control locks: Wired locks offer top-of-the-line connectivity and are compatible with multiple credential types. These locks are wired through the door and wall of the opening and can require additional infrastructure in facilities and real estate in server rooms. Wired solutions now include both traditional low-voltage hardwired or PoE.

Taking Control Of Access With Data

Contractors, staff members, and administrators come and go, but the ability to monitor and control access shouldn’t. Many of these latest, leading technologies leverage cloud databases that, in part, store credentials associated with the individuals behind each PIN, card, or account. This puts the power in the hands of the admin and security team. They can adjust the access permissions of each “key” holder directly on their management dashboards at any time.

Cloud and server-based access databases go beyond managing access, empowering the team with another layer of assurance with its ability to record the activity and provide “Audit Trails” or logs of granted and denied access attempts, whether for critical investigation or simply for management.

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The Key Is Connectivity

What better way to grow any infrastructure than to leverage tools already available? Whether you employ existing Wi-Fi networks to connect your intelligent locks, integrate real-time wireless systems, or power access devices through wired connections, the key to security is in an educational facility’s connectivity.

Luckily, a continuum of technology to power that connectivity is available to meet the unique budgetary and security needs of virtually any educational facility. The wireless approaches give administrators control over every access point, having both global and local lockdown capabilities and control over specific areas in the building. And while the wireless solutions enable a quick and seamless installation, the wired options provide optimal, real-time security.

The time to invest in the future of access and security is now. Delivering cost-effective, efficient, and scalable performance in the long run, the latest access solutions will enhance the monitoring and administration processes to boost the physical security of your stakeholders.

Jeremy Saline, access solutions in educational facilities, access controlJeremy Saline is the Senior Director of Business Development for ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions. He has worked in physical security, access control, and asset protection for the past twelve years. He is a member of the advisory board and a current contributor to the guidelines with emphasis on Door Access and Security for Division 8 and 28 specifications and code compliance. 

Jeremy has national responsibility for leading ASSA ABLOY’s K-12, Higher Education, and Healthcare vertical market business development teams. He meets regularly with senior-level executives in these core markets to better understand their needs and industry trends. He has written and contributed to thought leadership articles for industry publications, including Campus Security & Life Safety, Campus Safety, Security Business, and eSchool News. He has also led educational webinars focused on emergency relief funding in K-12 and higher education and is the host and creator of ASSA ABLOY’s Coffee Time program, Security Perspectives podcast, Sales Trainee Education Program (S.T.E.P.) and the industry-leading Integrated Access Management and Security Summit.

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