During certain parts of the day, the only way into or out of Westerville Central High School is through the front door.
If you are not a student, you have to be buzzed into the office and sign in to be allowed into the school.
The large campus serving 1,600 students is monitored by a series of cameras that monitor the doors and hallways.
Most of those cameras were installed piecemeal as the district had the money and opportunity to do so. They have different types of cameras with different quality outputs.
With a building this large, there are inevitable blind spots due in part to the architecture itself and sometimes due to not having enough cameras to cover every square inch of it.
“Our current use of a camera system is strictly evidentiary,” said Scott Dorne, Westerville City Schools executive director of facilities and operations. “We’re going back and checking the camera to see what happened.”
Dorne and the district want to be responsive to security issues in a timelier manner.
During the day, all doors are locked except the main entrance, as detailed above. No one should be opening those doors and they do not currently sound an audible alarm if they are opened.
Security staff at the school and district would like to see better monitoring of those doors in the future.
Today, you would not be able to get into the building unless someone on the inside let you in.
If they did, you would show up on one of the cameras covering that entryway. But unless someone was paying attention to that specific camera at that moment it would be possible to venture further into the building, and that is a situation the district wants to change.
That is why they are working with Status Solutions, a risk management and situational awareness company that works with blue-chip companies like Toyota, Hilton Hotels, and Dannon on their security needs.
Status Solutions has a branch in Westerville and a few months ago began working with Westerville on a plan to upgrade their schools.
The first part of that plan is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their security system.
On Tuesday, they visited Westerville Central High School for an on-site assessment.
“We’re bringing the right people to the table who have a ton of experience dealing with very massive public school settings, have experience where they’ve seen some situations that we might not necessarily see in Westerville every day,” said Danielle Myers with Status Solutions.
Status Solutions flew in experts from Washington D.C. and Virginia. They scoured each entry point and hallway throughout the school looking at camera placement and for the presence of monitoring sensors.
“We’re not necessarily trained in some of this technology, and what we’re doing is we’re getting the expertise at a ridiculously good value,” Dorne said.
Just fixing blind spots and installing higher quality cameras to identify people easier is only part of the plan.
They also want to deal with notifications to staff and in some cases teachers.
Status Solutions says technology is now available to be able to send notifications to a smartphone when a sensor is tripped by opening a door that should not be opened. That notification could even contain real-time video of what is happening at a doorway.
Certain notifications could even be sent directly to teachers in their classrooms if the situation warrants it.
It is possible to send a notification to some of the smart technology teachers use to educate students and remotely monitor the technology to recognize if it is on or off and power it up before sending the notification if necessary, according to Status Solutions.
The goal is to create efficiencies in notifications, whether to staff or teachers, so information about security issues will move quicker and prompt faster responses.
Those issues could be threats from outside coming into the school or internal problems like a fight in a common space.
The district has been preparing for an upgrade like this and has already begun budgeting to make it happen across the entire district, according to Dorne.
Currently, most of the district’s schools are fairly standardized when it comes to the security they put to use, but does admit that some schools need more cameras, according to Dorne.
While the team of experts assessing Central will also walk through North and South high schools as well, they will not be visiting all of the schools for an on-site inspection. Instead, those buildings will be assessed on paper.