The St. Mary’s board of education will use about $84,000 to purchase new emergency management technology to better monitor school visitors. That software will cost more than $41,000 a year to maintain.
“I’m very pleased to once again bring good news,” Mike Wyant, the school system’s director of safety and security, said at Wednesday’s school board meeting.
The St. Mary’s public school system received $60,729 from the U.S. Department of Education’s Justice Community Oriented Policing School Violence Prevention Program, which was announced in a release from Rep. Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md., 5th) office last week.
The money was meant to enhance security specifically at Great Mills High School, but the school board instead approved spending the money to purchase $69,472 in licensing from Raptor Technologies that would benefit all county public schools. The hardware that is needed with the technology will be purchased separately and will cost around $14,720, or $460 per location.
In addition, the annual licensing fees will be $41,600 for the Raptor software.
Wyant called installation a “slow buildout,” with plans to beta test the program in early January and have it in the three high schools by spring break.
He described the technology as a campus notification alert system and a great enhancement to the school system’s security measures.
He added the school system can now “actually afford to acquire a nationally recognized application.”
The system provides campus alerts, first responder notifications, electronic accountability for students and staff during an emergency, reunification and recovery tracking and emergency management.
Wyant highlighted the sign-in feature, which tracks all visitors in each school. When a visitor enters a school to sign in, they will scan the barcode of a driver’s license. The name and photo runs against criminal-related data, including a registered sex-offender list, and the system will notify appropriate personnel if there were any matches.
The school system had recently updated its sign-in technology. The current system already photographs visitors’ faces as they sign in.
Wyant played a video from Raptor during the school board meeting that explained the emergency panic button feature, which he said alerts law enforcement, and that Raptor receives an average of 75 sex offender alerts and 150 custody alerts every school day from the more than 32,000 schools around the country that use the software.
Wyant said Raptor does not integrate or draw from the school system’s database, but it is completely compatible with eSchool, an electronic system that keeps school records.
Cathy Allen, vice chair of the school board, asked Wyant how comfortable he was with the program’s privacy policies. He said he was “on top of that from the very beginning” and there were no reported privacy issues with the program across the country. He added that no discipline data “or anything like that” will be uploaded to the program.
Another feature Wyant pointed out is the government ID reader, which scans driver’s licenses and military IDs. It also archives the information of the IDs and provides “real-time checks” of those who scan in.
“It is a significant enhancement,” the security director said.
If visitors do not have a driver’s license or military ID, the program can create an ID for them.
Wyant said they are still working to identify the best practices for the program, but sees it being useful in the vestibules outside main offices.
Karin Bailey, school board chair, suggested having two computers utilizing the program. One inside the security-manned vestibule where visitors can sign in, and the other inside the school where an official can monitor the sign-ins.
The second video Wyant presented highlighted the program’s emergency management feature, which can be used during drills, active incidents and parent/student reunifications. The feature can be accessed through an app. Information and reminders about drills can be sent to each school.
Staff can update class rosters where teachers can confirm if students are accounted for during drills and lockdowns. And that information can be accessible to first responders who can also access the school building maps when responding to an incident.
Raptor reports parent-reunification, when parents retrieve their children after an incident, is four times faster through its feature. Parents and guardians can also utilize the app and receive texts to confirm who retrieved their child and when.
“I remember the day we didn’t even have resource officers in the school,” board member Mary Washington said to Wyant. “Thank you for bringing this up to the 21st century.”
In April, the school board approved using a state grant for $49,505 to purchase new school safety equipment, including handheld 2D-mapping devices that capture floor plans in real time and a mobile weapons scanning kit used to identify concealed weapons with equipment like iPhone 8 Plus, iPad Pro and a tripod. The equipment is also capable of facial recognition scanning, according to a school safety coordinator.