Washington Community High School, District 308, had a piecemeal surveillance system. According to Ron Ehlers, Network Administrator for the central Illinois school, it was no longer a solid solution that could address the growing school’s needs and growing footprint, amidst additions and construction.

WCHS was using an analog system comprised of a variety of technology from different manufacturers. Leaders at the school made the decision to upgrade its security systems and implement a new IP video platform that could be secure from remote and unauthorized access and have a robust, user-friendly VMS.

“We wanted a partner who would look out for us as a district,” Ehlers says. “We wanted to invest in a futureproof system that could grow along with us.”

The school district partnered with Kern Group Security Solutions to install an Axis Communications system. Before the installation began, Kern Group performed a threat analysis of the school’s operations, perimeter and existing security systems, using this as a blueprint to engineer, install and commission a new surveillance system.

Kern Group worked with Axis to test cameras within the school, providing test footage that could be used to review the system design and get buy-in from school officials.

“From a networking standpoint, with all the other equipment and aspects of the system, this has been one of the easiest projects at the high school,” Ehlers says. The system is built on its own VLAN to segment the system off from the rest of the high school’s network.

The finished system eliminated multiple analog perimeter cameras in favor of networked cameras, and Axis IR-LED illuminators were installed to aid in cameras’ night vision around the parking lots, which helped to increase surveillance coverage without requiring new light poles to be added.

Inside the school, each camera was selected for its specific location based on the camera’s individual feature set. Interior areas covered include hallways, common areas, perimeter doors and the main Torry Gymnasium, which is covered by two 180-degree network cameras, providing coverage of the bleachers and floor on either side of the gym.

All in all, 72 IP cameras were installed in and around the high school campus.

The cameras act as a force multiplier when used in conjunction with live monitoring on Axis’s Camera Station VMS by the school’s resource officer, Troi Westbrook. The system features camera icons on a map of the campus, which makes it easier to find the right camera feed quickly. Previously, Westbrook says, he had to review a paper copy of a school map to determine which camera feed belonged to which area.

“The quality of the picture is like night and day from what it was,” adds Westbrook. “That helps us identity things like students throwing things in the cafeteria – what they’re throwing, facial expressions, what they’re passing to each other in the halls, whether they’re vaping in hallways.”

Westbrook can also set up alerts on each camera so he gets an alarm and an image sent to his phone if someone crosses into a restricted area during a particular time, which helps to address false alarms.  

According to Scott Kern, Managing Partner at Kern Group Security Solutions: “The Kern Group’s IP video surveillance solution has established a new level of school confidence in surveillance technology and its capabilities to protect and secure the student body, faculty/staff, visitors and district assets.  To this end, plans are already underway to expand the system to cover the school’s new building addition” which broke ground earlier this year.

“WCHS desired an authentic partnership with a security integrator that brings to their table verifiable resources, solid expertise and a history of quality end-user service, coupled with certified manufacturer support,” Kern adds.

“It was important for us to have a partner in this project who we could rely on in the future, so we could be sure they’re selling me and the district something that has real value,” says Ehlers.