HomePublicationLa CañadaDistrict OKs Cloud-Based Security System

District OKs Cloud-Based Security System

First published in the Jan. 13 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

The La Cañada Unified School District took a major step in beefing up its security at all school sites with the Governing Board’s approval of a contract that will replace the existing system with one that is modern and cloud-based.
Board members voted 5-0 in favor of purchasing hardware, software and a 10-year licensing agreement from Verkada, a California company that specializes in cloud-based security systems. The total cost amounts to $508,706. The district will also require additional wiring for the cameras, which is estimated at $189,759, but La Cañada will seek funding from the federal government through the Schools and Libraries Program, which was created to give discounts to schools looking to make telecommunications and information services upgrades.
The district organized a Safety, Security and Well-Being Task Force in 2018 that discussed at length on how to improve security across all campuses, and Chief Technology Officer Jamie Lewsadder was involved in those conversations.
A consultant was hired to assess the schools’ security system; the findings revealed it to be very outdated.
“[A consultant told us to] focus on protecting people over property,” she said. “And what he means by this is when you’re faced, as a small district, with limited amount of funds, if you’re making decisions about when to monitor the camera or when to hire security, focus on the school hours rather than the graveyard shift.”
Using that suggestion as its guiding light, district staff looked into various systems before finding the one that was right for La Cañada. Verkada was high on LCUSD’s wish list and it rose to the top as the company added more features to its system and the district improved its bandwidth.
“Slowly, as we watched [Verkada] over time, it has come to deliver on everything that we were really wanting,” Lewsadder said. “They’ve made vast improvements over the past few years.
“What makes Verkada really stand out is that they’re really bandwidth-friendly. So it was a worry for us initially when we looked at a cloud-based system. Is this something that our network could potentially handle? And back when we were looking at it, our network was not in a place to handle it, but we’ve made significant improvements over time.”
With the new system, 164 cameras will be installed across the four campuses — one high school and three elementary sites — and LCUSD office to not only help in investigating incidents but also preventing them from happening. The current security system has only 48 cameras.
Vape sensors would also be added to La Cañada High School bathrooms as well as temperature sensors to technology spaces.
Any notifications from the camera and sensors would be sent to administrators through a phone application.
Other benefits to having Verkada’s cloud-based system include not requiring servers on site. In addition, maintenance of hardware and software is included in the licensing agreement.
Lewsadder saved her favorite feature for last, which is Verkada’s visitor management system. When she saw a demo of it, she thought, “Oh, my gosh. This is it. This is the thing I’ve been waiting for.”
Visitors would have to sign in virtually and a photo taken that will be included in a visitor’s badge. Any teacher, staff or administrator expecting a guest would be notified via email or text when the person arrives. The site can also develop a list that includes people who should not be on campus.
“I’m really excited because this is something we were really wrestling with,” Lewsadder said. “How do we know who’s on campus? … But the notification, I think, is just amazing that the person will get notified if [their visitor] is on campus.
“We see a list of everybody on campus. Principals can pull up their phone and see who’s there,” she added. “So, you can imagine in the middle of an emergency, to know who’s on campus … without having to run to the office to get a binder I think is a great innovation.”
Board member Joe Radabaugh, who spearheaded one of the Security Task Force subcommittees, said he was “super-excited that this is coming to fruition.”
“This is a way more proactive and capable system with analytics, the alerts, all the stuff that can be on the front end of preventing things,” he said. “We’ve already seen what success the city has had with the Flock camera systems and license plate reader. That’s some of the things you’re going to see here.”


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