First published in the January 13 print issue of Outlook Valley Sunshine.

La Cañada Unified School District has taken an important step in strengthening its safety at all school sites with the school board’s approval of a contract that will replace the existing system with a modern, school-based system. cloud.
Board members voted 5-0 to purchase hardware, software and a 10-year licensing agreement from Verkada, a California-based cloud-based security company . The total cost is $508,706. The district will also need additional camera wiring, which is estimated at $189,759, but La Cañada will seek federal funding through the Schools and Libraries Program, which was created to provide discounts. schools looking to upgrade telecommunications and information services. .
The district hosted a Safety, Security, and Wellness Task Force in 2018 that discussed at length how to improve security on all campuses, and CTO Jamie Lewsadder participated in those. conversations.
A consultant was hired to assess the school security system; the results revealed that it was very outdated.
“[A consultant told us to] focus on protecting people rather than property,” she said. “And what he means by that is that when you’re faced, as a small district, with limited funds, if you’re deciding when to watch the camera or when to engage security, focus on the hours. of school rather than on the change of cemetery.
Using this suggestion as a guide, district staff reviewed various systems before finding one that worked for La Cañada. Verkada was high on LCUSD’s wishlist and rose to the top when the company added more features to its system and the district improved its bandwidth.
“Slowly, as we watched [Verkada] over time it came to fulfill everything we really wanted,” Lewsadder said. “They have made great improvements over the past few years.
“What really makes Verkada stand out is that it’s really bandwidth-friendly. So that was a concern for us initially when we considered a cloud-based system. Is this something our network could potentially handle? And at the time we were reviewing the situation, our network was unable to handle it, but we have made significant improvements over time. »
With the new system, 164 cameras will be installed across four campuses — one high school and three elementary sites — and the LCUSD office to not only help investigate incidents, but to prevent them from happening. The current security system has only 48 cameras.
Steam sensors would also be added to bathrooms at La Cañada High School as well as temperature sensors to tech spaces.
All camera and sensor notifications would be sent to administrators through a phone app.
Other advantages of Verkada’s cloud-based system include the absence of on-premises servers. In addition, hardware and software maintenance is included in the license agreement.
Lewsadder saved its favorite feature for last, which is Verkada’s visitor management system. When she saw a demo of it, she was like, “Oh, my God. That’s it. This is the thing I was waiting for.
Visitors will be required to register virtually and take a photo which will be included in a visitor’s badge. Any teacher, staff member or administrator expecting a guest will be notified by email or text when the person arrives. The site can also develop a list that includes people who shouldn’t be on campus.
“I’m really excited because it’s something we really struggled with,” Lewsadder said. “How do we know who’s on campus?” … But the notification, I think, is just amazing that the person is notified if [their visitor] is on campus.
“We see a list of everyone on campus. Managers can pull out their phones and see who is there,” she added. “So you can imagine in the middle of an emergency, knowing who’s on campus… without having to run to the office to get a binder, I think that’s a great innovation.”
Board member Joe Radabaugh, who led one of the security working group’s subcommittees, said he was “super excited to see this happen.”
“It’s a much more proactive and capable system with analytics, alerts, whatever can be upstream to prevent things,” he said. “We have already seen the city’s success with the Flock camera systems and the license plate reader. That’s some of the stuff you’re going to see here.