School classroom door locks and devices guide

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Quick overview: School door locks and devices

Having effective school door locks is essential to a school’s safety plan. Not only do they help safeguard students, staff and visitors during emergencies but they also support efforts in deterring theft, anti-social behavior and other illegal activities. This guide will help provide valuable information on the importance of school door lock systems and take you through the various options available to pair with commercial security doors and help you secure your school.

Key vs. keyless school security door locks

The National Center for Education Statistics stated that in 2019-20, 97% of schools had some form of a door lock for school safety. Key-operated door locks, as you probably know, require a physical key to obtain access and are common across many settings, including schools, even if they may seem antiquated when compared to keyless school safety door locks. They still offer good levels of security but it can be argued that key-operated locks can prove to be more complex to manage than keyless school security door locks. 

With access control hardware and software making huge strides over the past decade or two, there are plenty of viable keyless school safety door locks on the market. Keyless locks remove the need for keys and instead rely on a variety of electronic devices that manage access. These electronic school security door locks have proven to be a worthwhile investment for schools and colleges as they’ve brought benefits such as improved security, an easier experience for users and, over time, a good return on investment. You can take a closer look at each type of key and keyless lock later in this guide as first, this guide will explore school door locks for both interior and exterior use. 

Motorola Solutions Access Control Manager (ACM) Integrations

  • Seamlessly integrates with third-party wireless locking solutions to provide schools that want to combine all of the components of an access-controlled door into a simplified all-in-one system.
  • Supports ASSA ABLOY Aperio and IP-enabled locks, SALTO Virtual Network data-on-card, Schlage wireless locks, Simons Voss Smart Intego locks and Von Duprin RU/RM crash bar kits.
  • Reduce hardware and wiring costs.
See wireless lock options

Exterior school security door locks

Exterior school access points, those found along the perimeter of a school, see a lot of traffic with a large number of students, staff and visitors entering and exiting the school. As a result, the school safety door locks at exterior access points need to be easy to use and manage, as well as compliant with building and fire codes. Most keyless door locks are compliant and are easy to manage in an emergency. Don’t forget about the use of panic bars, which provide a method of quick evacuation.

Interior school security door locks

When it comes to interior school door locks, you should keep in mind that classroom security locks will be required, as well as locks for staff rooms, offices and other restricted spaces. Door locks for all of these spaces need to be easy to use and manage in emergencies and lockdown situations. For example, teachers should be able to easily control the classroom security lock from the inside. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2019-20, 1 in 4 public schools in the United States lacked classroom doors that can be locked from the inside. This poses a risk to the teacher or staff member who would need to exit the classroom in order to lock the door during an emergency. In addition to having classroom security locks that can be controlled from the inside of the room, first responders need to be unimpeded when accessing such spaces without the right credentials and these door locks also need to adhere to building and fire codes.

Types of classroom door locks and devices

Cylindrical lever locks

Used most commonly for interior doors within schools that require little security. A cylindrical lever lock features a door handle on both sides of the door and its mechanism features a small cylinder, hence the name for these school safety door locks. 

Pros

  • Quick to install and repair as well as being easy to operate for users.
  • Available in multiple styles to suit different designs.

Cons

  • Managing and replacing school keys for this type of lock could be a huge task, depending on the number of users, and associated costs could spiral quickly.
  • If the key to a school door lock is lost, the security of the school could be compromised should the lost key fall into the wrong hands.
    Lacks the functionality for more advanced security features, including remote door unlock. 
  • Lacks the functionality for more advanced security features, including remote door unlock.

Mortise locks

Commonly used to deter forced entry, mortise locks feature a strike plate with the deadbolt found inside the lock’s mechanism. Such a door lock for school safety is usually found on exterior-facing school doors, as they provide added strength compared to cylindrical locks, but can equally be suited to interior use as well, depending on the thickness of the doors.

Pros

  • Heavy-duty and provides great protection against frequent use and forced entry.
  • Easy to maintain.
  • A more visually aesthetic design, compared to a cylindrical lever lock.

Cons

  • As these school security door locks are heavy-duty, they require a large pocket inside the door during installation. Depending on the thickness and material of your school doors, this lock may not be a viable option.
  • Security could be compromised should a key be lost or stolen by an unauthorized individual.
  • As with cylindrical lever locks, mortise locks don’t possess the latest security features commonly found in electronic locks and devices, such as automatic locking.

Deadbolt locks

Deadbolt locks are commonly used alongside other types of school door locks for additional security. Deadbolt locks are found on interior doors within schools, making them a potential option for classroom security locks. 

Pros

  • Easy to install and maintain.
  • The sturdy design makes it a secure lock where its strength is unlikely to be compromised easily. 

Cons

  • Deadbolt locks usually require a minimum of 35mm of door thickness to install correctly. This may make this lock unsuitable for the interior doors found in classrooms, staff rooms and other spaces.
  • As with the previously mentioned school door lock systems, deadbolt locks also don’t possess the latest security features and, should keys be obtained by intruders, the security of the door is compromised.

Panic bars

Panic bars are an essential requirement for schools and colleges so that students, staff and visitors can evacuate the building safely in an emergency. These bars have a dogging feature, which can be either mechanical or electrical, that enables the latches to be held retracted to create that push and pull method. For use in schools, it is important to remember that users of all ages and sizes may be required to use a panic bar, from a small student to a disabled staff member. Therefore, panic bars must be accessible for all users, and require a sufficient amount of force to operate but not too much that some struggle to release the latch.   

Keyless school door locks and devices

Keyless lock solutions—which can be either wired or wireless lock sets—operate the school door locks and classroom security locks. To operate these locks, a device, whether it be a keypad, RFID reader or another device altogether, is usually installed alongside the door to grant or deny access.

Keypads

Keypads require users to input a PIN code to gain access. Within schools, these types of school door lock systems are more likely to be used on doors that guard restricted spaces, such as staff rooms, storage spaces or server rooms. Capable of providing either one PIN code for all users or unique PIN codes for each user, keypads are sometimes used alongside a key-operated lock for added security.

Pros

  • Improved security as you don’t need to worry about losing keys and compromising security as a result.
  • Keyless door locks for school safety provide other security features such as automatic locking.
  • When integrated with the school’s access control system, the security team can receive real-time notifications of emergencies which allows them to respond quickly.

Cons

  • As PIN codes are required to successfully operate a keypad lock, users can forget their code meaning they would be unable to obtain access.
  • To maintain security, PIN codes will need to be updated routinely and as and when students eventually graduate from school or staff leave their positions.
  • When a keypad device is used alongside a key-operated school safety door lock, users must operate both locks to gain access, which can make it a difficult user experience.

RFID key cards and key fobs 

Commonly seen across many settings, RFID key cards and key fobs are also used by schools and colleges to allow students, staff and visitors to get access to certain spaces within their buildings. Easy to use, these RFID-enabled objects can enable access by simply swiping them in close proximity to a reader near the door. 

Pros

  • Easy operation and maintenance.
  • Key cards can also be used as an ID badge.
  • Can be programmed to allow time restrictions and special location permissions. This feature is very handy for security personnel who can ensure certain users or groups of users, like students or visitors, are unable to access school property outside of hours.
  • The security team can receive real-time emergency alerts which enables a faster response and even an auto-lockdown, should the situation require.
  • An activity log for each reader, card and fob can be obtained to accelerate investigation times.
  • If a key card is reported lost or stolen, the security team can deactivate the card rendering it unusable. 

Cons

  • Unlike a key card, a key fob is much smaller in size and can not include visual ID information.
  • Can be easily damaged due to its small size.
  • Replacing and issuing key cards and key fobs can be costly, especially if this happens frequently.
  • Key cards and key fobs can be copied using specific devices which would lead to compromised security.

Mobile access control

Similar to the key card and fob method, mobile access control allows the user, whether it is a student, staff or visitor, to gain access to restricted spaces with the use of their mobile devices. These mobile devices would contain the credential information needed to access buildings, rooms and spaces so the user would simply need to swipe or have the mobile device in close proximity to the reader to unlock a door. 

Pros

  • Mobile devices are unlikely to be forgotten or lost by an individual compared to a key card or fob.
  • Allows security personnel to grant access to teachers and staff so they can easily access spaces where students aren’t permitted.
  • Easy to manage – credentials can be provided or revoked quickly.
  • For college campuses, mobile access solutions would allow students, who usually carry mobile devices, to access spaces other than just classrooms and lecture rooms. They can access libraries, labs and student union spaces among other facilities.
  • Mobile access can be combined with a RFID key card solution on the same school door lock device with access control systems, such as Openpath’s access control. 

Cons

  • Not an ideal solution for K-12 schools as not all of the students may have access to a mobile device.
  • During school hours, students could leave school buildings via exterior entries without permission.

Biometric devices

An advanced access control solution that provides high-level security, biometric devices require the user to provide their fingerprint or a retina scan to gain access to a secured space.  

Pros

  • Often used alongside another form of access credentials, such as mobile access or key cards, as a form of two-factor authentication.
  • Provides a high level of security.
  • Users wouldn’t need to carry around anything, as they would have to for mobile access control and key card or fob solutions. 

Cons

  • An expensive solution to install and operate, especially for schools and colleges working with a tight budget.
  • Concerns around data privacy and the handling of sensitive information would be something the school or university would have to take into account to adhere to applicable regulations.

ACM™ Expedite for schools

  • Manage access to facilities anytime, anywhere on a mobile device.
  • Operators can take control of a situation from their device to expedite response times during critical or day-to-day events.
  • A practical, easy-to-set-up app for any authorized operator to use without formal training.
  • Quickly search for a door or a global action and tap to grant access, lock/unlock doors, review real-time door status, or activate a lockdown.
See how it works

School lockdown and door barricade devices

Door locks for school lockdowns

In worst-case scenarios, security personnel may have no other option but to initiate a school and classroom door lockdown across a school building or college campus, so it is vital that educational facilities have a comprehensive lockdown plan in place. In fact, in 2019-20, 96% of all public K-12 schools had a written plan describing procedures to be performed in an emergency situation, and 98% had conducted a lockdown drill with their students that year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

A key element of a thorough and reliable lockdown plan is the type of school lockdown door locks used. To choose the ideal safety locks for inside doors and exterior access points, you need to choose the right lockdown system option for your school or college. There are two types of lockdowns for schools and classroom doors:

Global Lockdown – this system option locks all doors from one location. This procedure is usually carried out through the school’s access control system. 

Local Lockdown – this system option locks individual classroom doors from the inside. This gives the teacher or staff member in the classroom the decision as to whether to evacuate or lock their classroom door.

Choosing the right option for your school or college depends on the application. Security professionals and emergency responders will usually suggest a mix of the two lockdown options. Put simply, the Global Lockdown system option can be adopted along the perimeter of a school building and the Local Lockdown can be adopted for interior use, for example, a classroom door lockdown.

School door barricade devices

School door barricade systems and devices or school door barricade locks are designed to wedge or barricade doors and provide classroom door protection from the inside during an emergency or lockdown scenario to stop intruders from entering a space such as a classroom. However, these secondary classroom door lockdown devices can have the reverse intended effect and prove dangerous in emergency situations. In a recent article, the Security Industry Association (SIA) outlined its concerns about these school lockdown door barricade devices. The SIA identified three key areas of concern:

  • Such devices could prevent both escape and intervention from first responders.
  • Many of these classroom door barricade devices and classroom door stoppers do not meet fire code requirements and violate accessibility requirements under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
  • Most of the classroom security locks on the market already provide lockdown capabilities that would keep students, staff and visitors safe. In fact, in numerous documented cases in the United States, there have been no situations where an intruder has bodily breached a locked classroom door.

Key questions to consider when choosing the right school door lock system

Now that you’re aware of the various school door locks and devices, take into account the following questions in order to determine what type of school safety door locks and classroom security locks suit your school or college campus. 

1. Who will be using the lock?

If the door lock for school safety needs to be operated by students, school staff and visitors, keep in mind that this will impact your decision on the choice of locks and devices, as you’ll need to take into account the number of users, when they will need access and how your team will be able to handle school door lock operation.

2. How often will the lock be used?

Locks that are used frequently will experience more wear so it’s important to ensure that robust school security door locks are installed on doors that see a lot of use. 

3. Can the school exterior door locks and classroom emergency door locks be operated quickly in an emergency?

In a lockdown situation or another emergency scenario, it is vital that your emergency door locks for school can be operated quickly to secure students and staff.

4. Is it necessary to have doors lock automatically?

If yes, it is crucial that you explore electronic locks that contain a spring-loaded mortise latch.

5. Would you like a hold-open feature? 

The hold-open feature allows security teams to open up access to classrooms, gym halls, libraries and other school areas during school hours or during a school-wide event, such as an open day. Outside of these specific hours, the school security door lock can restrict access. 

6. Does your lock system require a tamper-proof feature? 

This feature provides extra protection against those who are trying to intrude upon a restricted area. It typically kicks in after multiple failed attempts to gain access, for example, via a keypad, and automatically shuts down the device to prevent further attempts. 

7. Will your school door lock system need to integrate with your existing access control system?

If so, it is essential that you discuss which school door lock systems have the capability to integrate with your current access control system. For example, Motorola Solutions Access Control Manager integrates with leading lock providers, including ASSA ABLOY, Allegion and SALTO.

8. What is your budget for procuring new emergency classroom door locks for school safety?

This will have the biggest impact on the choice of door lock for school safety you opt for. Be sure to work out the total cost of procuring door locks for your school or college building and remember to keep in mind potential costs associated with integrating the lock system with other school security systems, as well as maintenance and upkeep over time.

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