APS Column: Technology tools for safety at APS

Published 5:23 pm Friday, May 17, 2024

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By Amy Thuesen

APS Director of Technology

When you think of technology in schools, you likely picture students on laptops and teachers using lots of engaging apps for teaching – but what you might not think about is how much technology is used to keep students and staff safe. At Austin Public Schools, a critical role of technology is to assist in improving safety, and that is becoming even more obvious as we look toward several district security improvements coming in the rest of 2024.

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The number one priority at Austin Public Schools is to provide support and resources to ensure a safe and welcoming learning environment. From key cards to phone systems to elevators, improvements in technology are helping APS to be a safer place to learn and work.

One of the major security upgrades on the horizon is to the monitoring of building doors and key card entrances. The technology and facilities departments have been collaborating on upgrades to the hardware and software that manages doors with key card access, ensuring that only authorized individuals can access our sites. The new software is also equipped for future enhancements, including advanced door monitoring and detection capabilities powered by AI. Additionally, by the end of December 2024, each building will be equipped with a security station that allows for close visual monitoring of building doors, hallways, and exteriors.

Another upgrade involves stronger communication tools withing and outside of school buildings. This July, we’re completely overhauling the district’s phone system, which involves replacing all desktop and classroom handsets and introducing several new features. These enhancements will ensure compliance with e911 legislation and include mobile and Microsoft Teams integrations to facilitate communication from any location. Digital signage is also experiencing a facelift. Each digital signage display in building hallways, cafeterias, and common spaces will feature consistent district messaging along with content specific to each building. The new hardware will also support security alerts like our Standard Response Protocol and weather announcements.

Finally, major elevator upgrades across the district are occurring now and through the end of December 2024. By the end of this project, improvements will include secure access to building elevators via keycards and safety phones that remain operational during power or network outages.

As APS Technology moves forward with its newly adopted Technology Plan, we will continue to develop and implement technology policies and practices that safeguard data, privacy, security, and accessibility throughout the district. These technology approaches may not be as flashy as classroom displays and laptops, but they are just as important for maintaining a great learning environment for our students.