DVRs a Superior Solution

When the Macon County School Board in central Georgia started shopping around for a video security system for its elementary school, school board administrators got a crash course in the latest digital video recording technology.


Analog CCTV systems recording to VHS tapes had been in operation at Macon County’s high school and middle school for a number of years, so when local systems integrator FusionPoint Technology Solutions began demonstrating a cutting-edge Digital Video Recording (DVR) solution from supplier March Networks, it didn’t take long for school board administrators to appreciate the superiority of the new technology.


“We were very satisfied with how the system would operate and what it could do for us at the elementary school,” recalls Macon Country School Board Superintendent Hosie Waters.“The digital technology was superior. No question about it.”


More Than 280 Cameras


The elementary school video recording system, which went live in August 2002, includes more than 280 cameras recording to 19 DVRs. The cameras are located throughout the interior of the 146,000-sq. ft. facility — in the classrooms, hallways, lunchrooms and the administration area.


Outside cameras with pan, tilt and zoom capabilities (PTZ cameras) monitor the parking areas, bus drop-off points, entrances and exits, playgrounds and the entire periphery of the building.


An already existing broadband network was leveraged to provide connectivity for the cameras, DVRs and computers, which are used to view, play back and retrieve video. The network connects all four schools in the system and the school board administration offices, allowing remote monitoring by authorized personnel from any workstation on the network. The security of students, teachers and other staff was the primary justification for the investment, says Waters.


“A video recording system enables you to view who is entering and leaving the schools. It allows our principals and resource officers to see what is going on inside and outside the building and helps us respond quickly to vandalism and other activities that may be inappropriate.”


Instructional Coaching


School administrators are also looking forward to leveraging the investment for teacher reviews and instructional coaching.


The March Networks DVR system accommodates audio recording capability, which the school board is hoping to take advantage of at a later date. With the ability to record both audio and video, principals will be able to notify teachers that they will be monitoring a classroom to help them fine-tune their performance.


“Afterwards,” said Waters,“the teacher and principal can sit down together and review the recording to identify any potential improvements in instructional methodology.”


Having seen first-hand the advantages of digital over analog recording, the Macon County School Board is already planning to upgrade the video recording systems at its high school and middle school. In both facilities, DVRs will take the place of VCRs.


“One thing we noticed,” says Waters, “was that VCRs require a lot more maintenance because they have more moving parts. They need to be cleaned, repaired and replaced more often due to wear and tear.


“We also discovered that the video tapes themselves wear out. Sometimes when you want to review a tape, it breaks, so basically it’s difficult to retrieve video, and it’s often a tedious, time-consuming process.


Searching


“With the digital system, you can search very quickly. You can zero in on a specific video segment if you know the area you want to check, or if you’re searching by time or motion alarm.”


Authorized school staff will also be able to review video evidence of classroom incidents that the teacher may not have seen. With the aid of video from the two cameras in each classroom, teachers and principals can confirm what actually happened and make better disciplinary decisions.


Only the principal, assistant principal and school resource officer (essentially a police officer) will have access to DVR viewer software and, while they will have the ability to view live video from any camera on the network, Waters anticipates that the system will mainly be used to retrieve and play back video when there is an incident reported.


Macon County police, who have had occasion to rely on the analog-based systems at the high school and middle school in various investigations, are also pleased about the more reliable digital video recording systems at the school board facilities.


“Having a security system at the elementary school gives parents and teachers peace of mind,” says Waters. “It lets them know that the school board is concerned about every school in the system and that we are working continuously to provide the security that is needed to protect students, teachers and staff.”



Maureen Carroll is the manager of education solutions for March Networks. She can be reached at .


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