DENVER (KDVR) — Denver Public Schools is rolling out new technology that aims to make its buildings more secure. On the first day of the 2022-23 school year, every exterior door at every school and building across the district was equipped with a newly-installed access control system. 

“It’s a really simple device. It looks like your home burglar alarm,” said Melissa Craven, director of Support Services for Denver Public Schools’ Department of Climate and Safety. “Part goes on the door, part goes on the frame. Once that contact is made, we’re good. As soon as that contact is broken, we allow a few seconds in case it’s an emergency exit usage, but after that few seconds is up, then that door goes into an alarm state.”

The alarm does not sound at the specific door but rather trips a warning at the school’s main office alerting security to the breach. 

“So if a door is propped or held open an alarm will go off in the office of the main school. They’ll have to go see which door it is and then go secure that door and silence the alarm,” Craven said. 

The status of all 6,000 exterior doors within the district can also be monitored in real-time through the Department of Safety dispatch center. 

“So if we get information from DPD (Denver Police Department) or one of our officers out on the streets that we need to lock down a school, we can do it from here, which will take all those doors offline, make them all secure,” Craven said. 

Door-locking technology a ‘game changer’

She calls the technology a “game changer” for school security. 

“We have always said as a department that our perimeter security was our number one focus, so we want to make sure who’s in our building and how they’re coming into our building,” she said. 

However, there has long been a problem with logistics. 

“If you’re on duty to circle the building and check all of the doors and you get called away to something, minutes, hours can lapse between that check and actually getting to that door,” Craven said. 

The door alarms allow staff to monitor each door at a school in a centralized computer system with the click of a button. 

“Some of our high schools have 40, 50, 60 doors and so it’s almost impossible to walk those doors with any efficiency to make sure they’re secure, so being able to monitor them electronically is a huge time saver and potentially lifesaver,” Craven said. 

According to Craven, her team decided DPS needed the devices back in 2018. In 2020, the district got the money to pay for the upgraded technology after voters approved a bond measure.