WM First Day of School5.jpg

CORY BYKNISH | Herald file

West Middlesex assistant principal Aaron Pernesky and Superintendent Raymond Omer talk to students before the start of the first day of the 2019-20 school year.

WEST MIDDLESEX — Visitors to West Middlesex schools will soon encounter an added layer of security when the district rolls out its Fast Pass system.

Visitors to any of the school buildings now check in at the main office, sign a log and fill out a paper label with their name and destination.

With Fast Pass, visitors will have to provide either a state-issued ID or a driver’s license, which is scanned for a background check. The system then prints a badge with the visitor’s name, picture, date, timestamp and destination.

“We’ve always had a system in place, but this will streamline the process and add the layer of background checks,” said Superintendent Raymond Omer.

The Fast Pass system was made possible by a $25,800 School Shield grant, courtesy of the National Rifle Association. Omer said school district officials applied for the grant last school year and had to demonstrate a need for the funding, through local crime statistics and a list of major highways near the school district’s boundaries.

Johnson Controls oversaw delivery and purchase of the equipment and West Middlesex’s technology team handled software installation, and the hardware, which included a laptop, label printer and infrared scanner. SISCO, which operates Fast Pass, will help school officials get the system up and running.

“The hardware is not very elaborate. The software that operates it is the elaborate part of the system,” Omer said.

Handling the installation in-house will free up grant funding for labels and licensing to access the offenders’ database for two years, he said.

The school district expects to have the grant money in hand by the end of September, although installation on the equipment began this week. Omer said Johnson Controls was willing to begin installation in order to have the security measures in place as soon as possible with the school paying for the work when it receives the grant.

“We’re getting a lot of cooperation from vendors now because they understand our mission of keeping the schools safe, and they know that we’re not able to do everything at once,” he said.

West Middlesex School Board accepted the NRA School Shield grant at its Aug. 26 meeting. At the same time, the board awarded an installation contract to Johnson Controls. 

Like David L. Dye on Facebook or email him at ddye@sharonherald.com.

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