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There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to visitor management--a comprehensive safety plan should consist of data- and human-based checks.

5 ways to keep schools safer with innovative visitor management

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to visitor management--a comprehensive safety plan should consist of data-driven and human-based checks

Key points:

One crucial aspect of school safety is monitoring who comes on and off campus, including visitors. Visitor management can be tricky, because school campuses tend to have various points of access. In recent years, schools have put in the effort to advance all safety measures within schools, including visitor management. In fact, recent research by Pew Research Center found that 98 percent of schools require visitors to check in and wear a badge

Schools can emphasize their protection of students and staff by requiring visitors to wear a visitor-specific safety badge that can monitor their location while on campus. Opposed to staff safety badges, which only provide location information once an alert is initiated to maintain staff privacy, the visitor badge will monitor the visitor’s location in real-time while on school grounds.

Visitor management solutions can monitor all visitors, including but not limited to parents, volunteers, contractors, and vendors, and can flag whether any visitor is not allowed on school grounds. Through my experience as a former educator and superintendent, I have identified the following five ways to keep K-12 schools safer with better visitor management strategies:

Conduct visitor screening

School visitations occur on a daily basis; therefore, they should be streamlined and made safer for students and staff through protocols and procedures. In previous years, schools may have had little to no set program when it came to recording the visitors in schools. In today’s more modern times with technological advancements, there are more steps that can be taken to ensure a safer school environment. Running background checks on visitors prior to allowing them to enter the campus is one of these important steps. Through screening of visitors, schools can confirm the reasoning and relationships behind the visitor’s attendance at the school. In addition, this screening can also allow for a custom banned persons list. This is to protect the students and staff from individuals who put them at risk.

Have technology in place for instant alerts about visitors

There are many levels of sophistication when it comes to visitor management systems. Instant alerts can offer insights to campus staff on the status of visitors within the school. Through discreet notifications, administrators can be made aware of who is attempting to visit the school. For example, if someone on the custom banned persons list is trying to enter the school, a school resource officer can be made aware through a discreet notification without the visitor knowing that others are being alerted. These awareness notifications can also be made through emails and SMS text messages.

Provide secure student releases

When students are being picked up early from school, there is an early dismissal, or any situation that could possibly alter a student’s typical routine at school, there should be safety measures in place to ensure they are being released in a way approved by their parent or guardian. These unordinary releases should also be a time to conduct background checks on the adults picking up students to confirm that these individuals are allowed to and that the child will be safe.

Utilize detailed reporting for all visitor activities

All data related to the visitor management system should be recorded and accessible to all staff through any internet-connected device to minimize mistakes that could impact a student’s safety. When there are many moving parts in a school system, it is crucial to have a point of reference when referring to a child’s location for their safety. Your school safety system should have one location where this information lives. Within your recorded data, all hours of visitors and staff within the building should be recorded down to the minute–this includes for teachers, substitutes, other staff members and volunteers. In the case of an emergency, you want to be sure that all people within the building are accounted for.

All available data should be taken into consideration when a visitor is checking in. It is important that mandatory reviews of photos and background checks are taken at every single visitor check-in, regardless of whether the handling staff members recognize or know the visitors. The banned persons list is likely to change, therefore, procedures should be followed during each individual check-in.

If a staff member is ever uncertain of a visitor-related situation, they should be able to have immediate access to visitor reports. The main purpose of this is not fully for convenience but also to save time in a situation that could possibly be a safety emergency.

Integrate visitor locating systems with other campus systems

Whether you are looking to add visitor management to your current system or are looking for a completely new product, it is crucial that your selection goes with any other student information systems you have implemented within your school. The synchronization will ensure higher adoption from staff, convenience for all parties involved, and increased cross references amongst student information. Syncing student meetings, daily attendance, and time codes directly to your SIS is crucial for a successful visitor engagement element within your plan.

School safety plans are developed through careful planning and evaluation of individual schools’ needs and challenges. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to handling visitor management, so a comprehensive safety plan should consist of data-driven and human-based checks. Once a safety plan is developed and approved, ensuring buy-in and understanding from those who will enforce the plan is critical. A strong strategy for handling visitor management will help to avoid unnecessary oversights and ensure the safety of students. 

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