IP network supports security upgrade

Located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Council Rock School District serves more than 12,300 students in its ten elementary schools, three middle schools, two high schools, and an alternative high school. The schools are spread across 72 square miles.

Student and staff safety is a top priority for the district. Both high schools had limited video surveillance and door access control deployments, but they were costly to manage. Every video surveillance camera and door controller required its own power line, which cost $250 to $300 to install. The IT department could not centrally manage both schools' systems because they had to be managed locally. Video was stored on VCRs at each school, making it time-consuming to find a particular incident. And maintenance costs were high because the work was too time-consuming for the district's own electricians, and the service provider charged a $500 minimum for travel plus $150 per hour.

The district needed more cost-effective physical security systems that it could also extend to middle schools and elementary schools. "Our IT department is asked constantly to come up with new solutions to operate the district more efficiently," says Matt Frederickson, director of IT, Council Rock School District. "Fortunately, we had already invested in a solid IP network, so we decided to use it as the platform for video surveillance and physical access controls."

Network Solution
The IT department, administration, and safety officers collaborated to develop a master security plan that stipulated surveillance and physical access controls that were cost effective, easy to manage, and could integrate with each other. They chose Cisco Video Surveillance and Cisco Physical Access Control solutions to meet their goals.

"When I visited the Cisco website to learn about the solutions, I was able to download the security camera system software to set up a trial," Frederickson says. "That was powerful proof that the Cisco solution would be easy to use, because another vendor needed two weeks just to prepare a demonstration."

Video Surveillance
The district has deployed 42 cameras in its two high schools, including wireless Cisco Video Surveillance 2500 series IP Cameras and wired cameras from another vendor. All cameras are monitored through Cisco Video Surveillance Manager software in the central IT office. School resource officers, principals, assistant principals, and the dean of students can view video from any camera, using a web browser. Campus resource officers can move the wireless Cisco Video Surveillance IP Cameras to any location without advance planning, such as when they suspect students might be smoking in a particular area.

Physical Access Control
Council Rock School District has installed the Cisco Physical Access Control solution in both high schools and is preparing to install it in the middle schools and elementary schools. Administrators use a web interface to schedule when exterior doors should be locked and unlocked. When doors are locked, staff can swipe their access cards to enter, and the system logs all entries and exits.

"When our facilities manager saw that we didn't have to bring a power line to the door, he recommended the Cisco solution," Frederickson says. "Our electricians learned how to install the access control hardware in just 15 minutes.”

Collaboration with Local Police
Because the video surveillance system operates over the IP network, the school district can grant access to the system to people in any location. The district and the local police department established a memorandum of understanding giving police permission to view video from cameras outside one of the high school buildings, using only a web browser. Access is secure because police must authenticate first with the district's Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance, which provides a firewall, and then with Cisco Video Surveillance Manager software. The system also creates a report showing who accessed which cameras, and when.

Extra Supervision for Students with Special Needs
The district has used the video Surveillance system to remotely supervise students with special needs. For example, an administrator or aide can monitor a camera in a hallway to make sure a student makes it to the next class, giving the student more independence than he or she would have if physically accompanied by the aide.

Next Steps
The district plans to connect building control systems to its Cisco network so that facilities personnel can change the temperature setback from home if school is closed because of weather, for example. The next step will be to use Cisco Network Building Mediator to automate policies, for example, by reducing temperature to 58 degrees in all buildings at 4:00 p.m.