Summit Academy Chooses Cloud-based Access Control System
Summit Academy Schools operates 26 schools in 14 Ohio communities. This nonprofit community school educates about 2,200 students from kindergarten through 12th grade with Asperger’s syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and other learning disabilities. Summit Academy officials place a high premium on safety and security. As the number of campuses continues to grow, they wanted to implement a program that would enhance their ability to control access to their school facilities. They were also interested in a consistent system-wide security solution with accompanying policies and procedures that could be easily utilized and enable visibility across their various facilities.
Since the opening of its first school, Summit Academy has relied on security integrator, Johnson Controls, to help provide solutions. Before a new school opens, a Johnson Controls Representative conducts a security review of the facility and makes recommendations to Summit officials about employing processes, procedures and visitor management technologies that enable the strict access control measures sought by school officials. One of the first steps is to identify a single, main entrance for each school. Other doors are locked at all times, with only a few exceptions. Each morning, staff members are on hand to welcome students as they arrive. Once classes begin, the main entrance is locked. Johnson Controls and Summit selected a hosted, cloud-based access control system to serve all 26 sites, while freeing school officials from having to store, maintain and update servers. The system is extremely flexible and scalable, allowing for the addition of new readers—even new schools—with ease. And the hosted system allows school officials to concentrate on their core competencies and leave the security to Johnson Controls.
Since the various security components require the use of Summit’s network to enable centralized control, Johnson Controls works closely with Summit’s IT department to resolve potential problems prior to installation. Summit staff members can enter the facilities by swiping an access card through a reader located at the main entry. In a few cases, a second door has a reader installed to allow staff access from an adjacent parking lot. As each card is swiped, the access system records the name of the cardholder and the time and date of the event. Staff access at each school can be limited to specific times and/or days. One-time needs can be programmed into the system for special events, while other changes that may be required for an entire department can be programmed into the system in just minutes.
If a staff member’s card is lost or stolen, it can be immediately deactivated and a new card issued. This system eliminates expensive rekeying of locks. During school hours, receptionists also use a Johnson Controls-installed video intercom system with two-way audio to greet visitors at the main entrance of a Summit facility. After establishing the identity of the person and the reason for his or her visit, the receptionist can press a button to release the lock and allow the visitor access. Once in the office, visitors are issued adhesive badges to be worn while on school grounds.
Since many of the students have sensory sensitivities to loud noises, several schools now use a Johnson Controls-installed alarm notification system with recorded human voices to announce emergencies. School administrators have access to a simple yellow button to start a weather-related announcement, a blue button to use for a school lock-down, and a red button to warn of a fire emergency. There are plans to expand this system to more Summit locations.
Summit and Johnson Controls are also testing the use of IP-based video surveillance cameras to be used where problems, such as vandalism, may exist. Johnson Controls also provides monitored fire and intrusion alarm systems for most schools, except for a few multi-tenant sites where the landlord provides the services.
Summit now has an effective way of controlling and tracking who is in their facilities. The access control system, video intercoms and the policies and procedures put in place give officials the tools necessary to tightly regulate who enters its 26 schools.
“These systems have worked phenomenally, providing us with huge savings over a key-lock system,” said Christopher Reeher, Summit Academy Director of Facilities. “Now we don’t worry when an access card is lost or stolen or a vendor or employee is terminated. We can replace it in minutes at little cost. Even rolling out cards for an entirely new campus can be done in a few hours in our Akron administration center and the cards are delivered the next morning by courier.”
Reeher said he appreciates being able to check activities on the Web-based access system anytime he wants—from his office desktop computer or from his mobile phone—virtually anywhere in the world. He can also remotely cancel an access card within minutes. Innovative solutions suggested by Johnson Controls, such as the voice based alarm systems, are also appreciated by the staff and parents.
Reheer said he enjoys the working relationship he has with his Johnson Controls team. Its members consistently show an understanding of Summit’s concerns, are very sensitive to the special needs of the students and bring innovative security solutions to the table. “I am very impressed with the amount of training Johnson Controls provides its staff in the education field,” he said. “That allows us to talk to our Johnson Controls Representative intelligently about the specific issues that apply to our schools.” Johnson Controls, which helps to secure thousands of K–12 campuses in North America, employs a team of trained and experienced education specialists that can assist school officials in finding the right security solutions to help protect students, faculty, staff and property.