A Catholic high school in St. Louis has taken the plunge into biometrics for security. The private, all-male St. Mary’s High School now uses facial recognition software to enable entry for staff, students and others. The school claims to be the first in the country to install the technology.
It can also keep known troublemakers out. “We can put that person’s face in the system, and if that person shows up, not only will the door not unlock, but immediately notifications will be sent out to myself, to the principal, to the dean of students, to the police department,” says Mike England, president of St. Mary’s.
Even first responders in the neighborhood have used the facial recognition system for quick access inside the school in case of an emergency. No such incidents have been reported in the few months that the system has been in use, and England says nothing specific prompted the change.
“This was an opportunity that we had to add another layer of security to our building to keep our community safe,” England says. “Parents are very happy with it. I think anything that keeps their kid safer is always going to be a good thing.”
Facial recognition cameras are posted at the front and back door. The main doors are unlocked, and entrants step into a vestibule where the camera is located. “They look at the camera. It takes a picture of the face, and if it recognizes the face in the system, then the (inner) door unlocks and the person is able to enter into the school, England says. “If it does not recognize them, then obviously the door does not open and they have to be buzzed into the school by a greeter or receptionist.”
England reports “close to 100 percent” accuracy in allowing entry to those whose pictures are in the system. The $15,000 price tag includes all equipment and monitoring. England says potential add-ons include facial recognition as a way to pay for lunch or items in the school store.