Customer Success: Security Cameras in Schools
A small school district in Southern Oregon has been transformed by Verkada security cameras and their cutting-edge AI capabilities.
As we’ve explored in my past blog articles, the COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the way K-12 schools are looking at safety and security.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in the 2016 school year, physical conflicts among students and student bullying were the two most commonly reported school problems. But concerns no longer lie solely with violence, bullying, or even school shootings anymore.
Now, the most imminent threat schools are facing is the spread of coronavirus. And even though there is finally an end in sight to the pandemic, this virus has forever changed the culture of health and school safety.
To help mitigate the spread of the virus, the CDC has been publishing considerations and guidelines for K-12 schools since March when the first lockdown began. A large percent of public schools in the U.S. are operating under a hybrid learning model, with only a handful that are fully open or fully closed in accordance with state law.
Some of the CDC’s most recently published mitigation practices include:
Keep 2-meter distance between people who do not live together
Restrict mixing between groups
Avoid sharing books, supplies, games, and learning aids
Restrict extracurricular activities, field trips, and meetings
Restrict access of caregivers and non-essential visitors
Modify classroom layouts, or expand outside in parking lots if safe
Close inside communal spaces
Provide social distancing guides and visual aids around campus and make frequent announcements reminding students to keep distance
Modify schedules to stagger students’ time spend on campus
Reinforce frequent hand hygiene among students and faculty
Specifically teach the correct way to wash hands
Encourage frequent use of alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitizer)
Make hand hygiene obligatory when entering and exiting school and classrooms
Post signs and visual aids to encourage frequent hand hygiene
Install hand hygiene stations around campus
All students and faculty to wear a cloth face covering, especially in classrooms and hallways
Students should be frequently reminded not to touch their eyes, nose, mouth, or face coverings
Cover coughs and sneezes with an elbow or tissue, then immediately dispose the tissue
Enforce policy to stay home when feeling sick or after close contact with known infected
Post signs and visual aids encouraging mask wearing and proper sneezing and coughing techniques
Develop flexible sick leave policies to encourage staff to stay home if unwell
Consider daily symptom screening for students and faculty
The CDC offers some suggestions on how to implement these types of changes around campus, but it is largely up to local school officials and districts to determine how it’s done.
One solution may be to install school security cameras to monitor the campus and make sure health and safety rules are being followed. Having cameras in classrooms may spark heated privacy debates, but as long as students and faculty are aware of their presence, video footage acquired by school administrators is considered educational records and can be helpful where COVID-19 is concerned.
I decided to sit down with one of our most exemplary customers and discuss how his school district uses Verkada cameras to manage a lot of the new policy changes brought on by COVID-19.
Miguel Carrillo is the Technology Director of Sutherlin School District in Sutherlin, OR. Sutherlin is a small town of nearly 8,000 residents in Southern Oregon. There are four school campuses included in the district and Miguel handles all of the IT systems and technological maintenance for each one.
After introductions, Miguel was quick to preface the interview with his personal thoughts and feelings about Verkada school security cameras.
“I’ve looked at other solutions, and they didn’t even come close. In terms of cost and features, these cameras are beyond what anyone else is offering. I’m very happy with it.”
This made me curious about Sutherlin’s previous surveillance cameras, and how they differed from Verkada cameras.
“Before Verkada, we had the old DVR system with coaxial cables. It hadn’t been updated in at least 10 years.”
Some frustrating issues that came with the DVR system at Sutherlin School District:
Something was always breaking
After 5 or 6 years, the vendors that provided the camera systems would be gone
Reviewing video footage in an investigation would take hours
Sometimes footage wasn’t reliable (ghost imaging)
If you’ll recall from one of my past articles, A DVR system works with analog cameras to convert analog footage to digital format. More frequently seen as an antiquated form of video recording, more and more schools are moving away from DVR systems in an effort to improve overall school security.
Miguel went on to describe the process of getting his Verkada cameras installed. He signed up for a 5 year license for 51 cameras, although due to COVID, he only has two of his campuses outfitted with cameras so far.
“I did my own installation. It was easy because I installed the wiring so I knew where all my switches were located. Everything was very simple to install, but I think knowing ahead of time where all of my wiring and network equipment was definitely helped.”
There are four campuses and one online school included in Sutherlin School District:
Sutherlin East Primary School
Sutherlin West Intermediate School
Sutherlin Middle School
Sutherlin High School
Sutherlin Valley Online Academy
Before November, they had been operating under a “hybrid-learning” model. Elementary school was in-person learning, while middle school and high school were staggered in gradually so eventually everyone was back to full in-person learning.
But after Thanksgiving, COVID numbers around the country increased again dramatically, sending Sutherlin SD and countless others back to fully remote learning.
“Right now we are fully online, with some students coming in on a case by case basis.”
This led us back to some of Verkada’s AI capabilities that are specific to helping manage some of Sutherlin’s trickier COVID-19 policy changes.
“One of the concerns that came up when I was presenting this idea was the issue with masks. Is the facial recognition going to be able to determine who is in frame with a mask on? Well we tested it, and the recognition technology is amazing and works dead on.”
Overcrowding Notifications were another key feature that helped Sutherlin SD pull the trigger on Verkada cameras.
“Another feature you guys came out with was detecting when there’s more than a certain number of people in the frame. That really helped sell this to the board.”
Some other AI-designed features that Miguel has been able to use on the Verkada security cameras are:
Uploading a person’s photo to the system and being able to see everywhere that person has been on campus
Identifying cars using color filters for vehicular events
Receiving notifications when a specific person enters campus
“The ease of use, the management part of it, the cloud use...for me as an administrator, it’s really easy for me to assign file permissions, and to give access to video footage to certain people. It’s all just really simple. I am really happy with the manageability of it.”
My conversation with Miguel left me feeling proud to be working for a company that is bringing this forward-thinking tech to market.
Verkada security cameras aim to secure school campuses and provide a reliable first line of defense for a multitude of threats, but they are particularly helpful when managing new COVID-19 protocols.