Schools look to new security

Published 1:33 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2016

School officials in Buckingham County are experimenting with and preparing to roll out new technology to screen and register parents, family members and others who visit the division’s schools and pick up children.

Funding for Ident-A-Kid — software for scanning visitor and parent IDs and issuing temporary sticker badges for visitors — was included in the school’s funding from the county board of supervisors. The cost of the project is $14,180.

Dr. Cecil Snead

Dr. Cecil Snead

“We have a large security plan,” Division Superintendent Dr. Cecil Snead said during the Buckingham County School Board’s Oct. 9 meeting. “With the help of the board of supervisors, and some grants, we’ve been able to put together a system of cameras and security that involves the sheriff’s department and involves automatic locks on our front doors.”

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Now that plans and processes are in place, Snead said the division could look at “some really detailed pieces in our security system.”

“Ident-A-Kid is a system where, if I’m going to go to a school … and I want to check out my son or my daughter …  I go up to the computer and I enter in my credentials and it takes a picture of me and it gives me an ID badge if I’m going to visit the school so that all employees can identify me,” Snead said.

Additionally, when a parent or guardian arrives to visit or pick up a child, they’ll be asked to display their driver’s license. “(The technology) will notify the school if this person is a type of a predator or whatever. And it will alert us,” Snead said.

He said the technology — which the division is currently experimenting with at the schools — will allow for more validity, strengthening safety for children.

According to Snead, Ident-A-Kid stations will be placed in each school’s office area.

“We anticipate advertising the procedure for checking students out of school because the new system requires a driver’s license scan,” he said. “The license scan only alerts us if the person is a sex offender. Otherwise, the license scan will not alert. In addition, the system keeps a digital log of visitors to our building. The beauty of it is it keeps track of all the visitors throughout the year to the school.”

Parents and community members are helping the division test how the software works, Snead said.

“We’re trying to use a common sense approach,” he said. “That would really help us a lot.”

Technology Coordinator Joan Shumaker said the division is receiving good feedback from the schools and parents.

School Board Chair Sherry S. Ragland, who represents District Five, said the program can be used a number of ways.

“For now the superintendent is allowing the principals and schools to slowly introduce this new system to parents (and) guardians,” Ragland said after the Oct. 9 meeting. “It’s just another step towards protecting our children with new modern technology and efficiency. I feel confident that parents will appreciate this new system, especially since our primary and elementary schools have a larger number of students on campus. It’s not 100 percent until we work through the glitches, and with the community support, it will be.”

The division expects to implement the full project next semester “because we feel we need to walk into this process methodically,” Snead said.