West Hartford Public Schools Implementing Computerized Security System for Visitors

Raptor Visitor System. Courtesy of West Hartford Public Schools

The Raptor Visitor Management System will be installed in West Hartford Public Schools in November, and will update the security procedures and require visitors to show their IDs.

By Ronni Newton

Visitors to West Hartford Public Schools during the school day will be required to present an ID that will be used to prepare a name badge under an upgrade to the district’s security system to be phased in at all schools beginning in early November.

Superintendent Tom Moore sent a letter to all parents and guardians earlier this week notifying them of the planned implementation of the Raptor Visitor Management System – a measure to strengthen security and safety at all schools by keeping a record of who is in the building at all times.

“The Raptor Visitor Management System is the industry leader and allows us to screen visitors, contractors, and volunteers in our schools and provide a safer environment for our students and staff,” Moore’s letter states.

Visitors entering a building during school hours will be required to present an ID that will be scanned through a 6-inch “toaster” scanner, or entered manually into the Raptor system. A name badge with the visitor’s name, the date, and the time of entry will be printed.

Those who do not have government-issued IDs can utilize other forms of identification, which will be entered into the system manually.

The process will take about 30 seconds, Assistant Superintendent for Administration Andy Morrow said. The system will capture the name, photo, and date of birth, as well as the last four digits of the driver’s license number.

No address information, Social Security numbers, or other data will be captured. This is not a facial recognition program, Morrow said.

Once a visitor is in the database, an ID will need to be shown, but not scanned, at subsequent visits.

The software will also automatically cross-check the identify of the visitor with the national database of registered sex offenders. If a match is found, building personnel will be alerted “immediately and discreetly,” the policy states, but Morrow said those individuals are not necessarily banned from schools just because they are registered. The system does include the ability to compare a photograph of the registered sex offender to the visitor.

Morrow said this function is built into the system, not specifically requested by West Hartford Public Schools, and looking for sex offenders “is not the purpose of this.”

The system can be customized with information staff needs to be aware of, for example issues like custody restrictions or restraining orders, Morrow said.

Implementing the Raptor Visitor Management System “is just a way of modernizing our system,” said Morrow, and has been part of the district’s long-term planing for updated security. “It’s a best practice and we should have been doing it before, but with our move to single access entry at our buildings, this is just the next logical step.”

Anyone just going to the office to drop off or pick up someone or something, or anyone who is being met by a teacher or administrator for a conference or other purpose and escorted through the building, or anyone attending a concert or assembly, will not need to check in through the Raptor system.

It will be in use during the school day only, most commonly for occasions like parents or other volunteers coming to read or present a program to a class, or maintenance workers who are not employed by the district.

“[Currently] if you’re a teacher walking through the halls, and you see another adult, you don’t know who that person is,” Morrow said.

The existing process at schools involves signing a log on paper kept in a notebook or on a clipboard. Visitors are typically then given a sticker, on which they may or may not scribble their name.

“What we’re trying to do is update and replace the clipboard in the office,” said Morrow. “It’s important that we know who is in our buildings at all times. … In case of a lockdown, fire, evacuation, we need to know who is in the building and we don’t have that now.”

The goal is not to exclude people, he said. Schools are prepared to share and explain this information with parents or guardians who speak other languages.

Parents and guardians are not being asked to share any information that the school doesn’t already have through PowerSchool, Morrow added.

The Raptor Visitor Management System has been carefully vetted by the town IT department. “We are comfortable with their level of security,” Morrow said, and information will not be shared with any outside organizations.

The Raptor Visitor Management System is currently in use in many other nearby school systems – including Plainville, Bristol, New Britain, Wethersfield, Wolcott, Berlin, Canton, New Milford, Region 7, Region 10, Region 12, and Region 14, Morrow said. It is in the process of being implemented at all CREC schools.

Avon has had a similar system in place for years, Morrow said.

In addition, “thousands of schools, hospitals, and organizations have used this and similar technologies both nationwide and internationally for years,” said Morrow.

The cost to implement the Raptor Visitor Management System is $1,700 per building, Morrow said. Ongoing costs will be approximately $500 per year, per building, for supplies and registration. The cost is a line item in the West Hartford Public Schools security budget.

“The safety and security of our students remains our highest priority and this visitor management system allows us to consistently control building access and quickly identify those that may threaten the safety of our students,” Moore’s letter states.

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