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New rules for school

Students are facing new challenges this fall, but security tools and policies may help the transition


October 6, 2020
By Alanna Fairey
iStock / Getty Images Plus / coscaron

Back-to-school shopping looked a little different this year.

In previous years, the priority has been on school supplies — this year it was all about PPE, hand sanitizer and technology solutions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Minaz Jivraj, chief security officer for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, in Mississauga, Ont., shared that while the school board has not drastically changed their security protocols and guidelines, circumstances
are clearly different.

Explaining the “new norm,” Jivraj said that the schools have implemented a strict no-visitor policy, unless visits have been pre-arranged, as well as masks must be worn.

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While there have been discussions regarding temperature detection solutions for the schools, they have not installed anything as yet.

However, he noted that if “a child or students are not feeling well, they have the ability to take temperature or if somebody is showing symptoms of being unwell, we have the ability to turn around and take [their] temperature. This is a new environment that we are walking into.”

Peace of mind

A number of schools are exploring security solutions that would give parents some peace of mind as schools reopen for the fall.

One such solution is the i-PRO Secure Campus, which Panasonic i-PRO Sensing Solutions launched in the U.S. in August in the lead up to back-to-school.

According to William Brennan, president of Panasonic i-PRO, the company’s Secure Campus program represents a new focus and direction.

“K-12 safety is a priority, and this program goes far beyond the typical product focus that most suppliers offer by providing a holistic solution to help school administrators better navigate the process of implementing or upgrading
their security systems,” Brennan said in an email interview.

“The Secure Campus program is truly a comprehensive solution that helps schools overcome longstanding challenges to campus safety.”

Brennan explained that the technology gives school security and administration personnel the capability to monitor and control access over virtually every zone of the school — from external entry gates, student drop-off and parking areas, surrounding grounds, facility entrances and common areas, such as cafeterias, gyms, theatres and studios.

“Given the fact that analytics and artificial intelligence are now being built into our products both at the edge and on a system-wide level, the sophistication capabilities of both new and existing i-PRO systems can continue to evolve on an on-going basis,” Brennan said. “This allows schools to focus their attention on education in a non-invasive and
unobtrusive manner that is more conducive to higher learning.”

Tim Grose, vice-president of sales, secure integration, G4S, said that the company has received inquiries about solutions regarding entry into the school such as access control, keeping visitors out, and keeping track of who is in the building, as well as video surveillance solutions.

Grose also noted that G4S has received requests for thermal temperature solutions and technologies to ensure that students are in compliance with the mask policy.

“It’s going to be difficult for a lot of teachers to disrupt their class to [implement the mask policy],” Grose said. “The conversations we’re having with them are around advanced robotics — what it does is measure if the person’s wearing a mask and then physically sees them. They can also do a thermal scan of elevated body temperature and check if they have a mask on.

“It sends an audible alert to the person to notify them that they are not in compliance with the mask policy,” Grose explained.

Air quality issues

Stéphane Chayer, vice-president of smart infrastructure at Siemens Canada, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of air quality. The company has provided heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) solutions to college and university campuses, who reached out to Siemens Canada to make sure their systems are up-to-date.

“We’re looking at the filtration and if there is a possibility to upgrade to filtration to stop the virus to spread throughout the dock,” Chayer said. “We want to make sure that our customers are mixing the air with the right level of fresh air.”

Chayer also shared that in addition to filtration systems, Siemens Canada has provided Ultraviolet (UV) technology to campuses, which may help to kill pathogens.

“You want to make sure that you have a good control system that is up to date, and you have no deficiency in your system,” Chayer stressed. “These variables were the reason why we were pulled back into our customer base to do some improvements.”

While Siemens Canada has integrated HVAC solutions for college and university campuses, this has not been the case for K-12 schools, as most of the buildings are older and have outdated ventilation systems that are unable to accommodate newer technologies.

While Siemens Canada may not be able to assist K-12 schools yet, Chayer anticipates that as the COVID-19 situation develops, K-12 schools will move from a “rather static type of system to a more dynamic and digital system to record information in real-time.”

“Air quality is definitely something that people will focus on, using filtration and also [as] a technology to kill the virus — not only to filter it,” Chayer explained. “Occupancy monitoring will also be typically something that will emerge once customers have implemented the basic preventive maintenance with remote monitoring.”

Learning curve

While it is still too early in the school year to confirm whether or not such solutions will help to improve the current COVID-19 pandemic, integrators agree that the pandemic allowed them to come up with new solutions to help protect the public.

“The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating this transformation further with integrated systems now being used for health and safety applications,” Brennan said.

“This is changing the dynamic of the industry and opening up many new opportunities for security professionals in the evolving business intelligence and IoT arena.”

Chayer stressed the importance of air conditioning and what the technology can do for a building amid COVID-19.

“There’s always a cost benefit but even if there’s costs needed to invest in upgrading those buildings, the benefit is amazing,” Chayer said. “If you don’t invest now, and you have a second wave, the same thing will happen again.”

If schools are considering adding new security solutions, Chayer encourages them to “analyze, ask the experts and invest in upgrading your assets.”

As security solutions such as thermal temperature screening and new access control capabilities become the new normal, Grose believes that the purpose of these technologies is to help create a safer environment, especially for K-12 schools.

“Student and teacher safety will be, first and foremost, the best benefit that comes out of this,” Grose says. “I think the technologies that we are putting in are going to benefit people. As their children go to another environment, parents will know that [they] are going to be as safe as they possibly can be.”