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Selecting a Visitor Management System for Schools

The Importance of an Effective Visitor Management System for Schools

What is a Visitor Management System?

A school visitor management system (VMS) tracks every visitor, parent, volunteer and other guests who enter and exit a K-12 school building. While some systems require a manual operator (i.e., a person at reception desk,) it often operates through a self-service kiosk. Each visitor enters his or her name, address, and phone number into a computer. The computer photographs the visitor and scans the visitor’s ID to run it through a nationwide sex offender registry. Once cleared to enter, the visitor receives a temporary badge to wear while inside. At the end of the visit, the visitor scans the badge to exit the building. This process not only keeps students safe from people who shouldn’t be around them. It also streamlines visitor traffic and frees up school staff to focus on the kids.

Why are Visitor Management Systems Important for Schools?

Most school employees are very conscientious about ensuring student safety.  But it is unrealistic to expect school front office staff to know everything about a parent’s background, and if they have custodial rights – let alone the background of a complete stranger who shows up for facility maintenance or a sales call. A school visitor management system tells you exactly who is in the building and:

  • Flags dangerous individuals
  • Checks visitors’ sex offender records and criminal history
  • Protects students from leaving with an unauthorized individuals
  • Creates accurate and legible sign-in records 
  • Provides badges for each approved visitor

Implementing a system to keep track of these important details for the school provides peace of mind for both the staff and parents.

What Features Should You Look for in School Visitor Management Systems? 

Maintaining a safer school environment entails vigilant awareness and detailed tracking. In fact, VMS software for schools requires more tailored features than the average corporate solution. Seek these key features in school visitor management systems.   

Text Messaging Notifications

Parents and guardians receive automatic text message notifications when their child is signed out of school.

Digital Record of All Visitors

  • Digital records minimize paperwork and automate data capturing. 
  • Replacing handwritten records makes visitor data easier to read and more complete as a system requires all fields be filled out. 
  • Personnel can easily search digital records for specific people, buildings, or times. 
  • Administrators can track substitute teacher hours for streamlined billing reports. 

Photos of Visitor Badges

Photo badges give both students and staff a clear way to identify visitors once they enter the building.

Nationally-Compiled Sex Offender Database

All visitors must scan their license at entry. The systems screens each person against the nationally-compiled Sex Offender Database and notifies school personnel of any possible matches.

Flag Internal “Red Flag” Visitors

  • Alert school personnel if a “red flag” visitor signs in and isn’t legally authorized to pick-up a student.
  • The system tracks custodial rights and other legal orders that dictate which parents, guardians, and other individuals can sign a child out of school.
  • The best visitor management systems integrate with your student database, eliminating the need to re-enter custody details. 

School Emergency Mass Alerts

  • In the event of an emergency, the system keeps visitors informed with text alert instructions for exiting the building, lockdown, etc.
  • Integration with your existing emergency management platform allows you to account for visitors during a violent critical incident, evacuation or other event.

What are the Limitations of a Non-Digital (Paper) Visitor Log?

Many schools now issue personal laptops to each student, even kindergarteners. If technology enhances your student learning experience, imagine what it does for building safety. Nevertheless, many schools still use non-digital (paper) logs sheets to track who comes in the building or signs out a child to go to the doctor. This is outdated. It is an unnecessary liability risk to trust visitor management and school safety to a paper sign-in log. Here are some of the many limitations to a paper-based system:

  • Physical records are easy to damage or lose
  • Searching through papers/binders is difficult
  • Handwritten entries may be illegible
  • Can’t capture visitor photos
  • Records aren’t attached to custody details
  • Screening visitors is impossible
  • Can’t consolidate data with multiple buildings
  • Impractical for reporting
  • Doesn’t link to emergency management system

Paper records offer no way to catch red-flag visitors until after entry, and often not until after a crime has been committed. This is absolutely not an efficient or safe way to manage and track visitors.

Additional Benefits of Implementing a School Visitor Management System

Beyond keeping students safe, there are several additional benefits of implementing a school visitor management system. The biggest benefit of all might be web-based reporting where personnel can easily generate individual building reports for visitor traffic, volunteer attendance, and more. Plus, you can combine data from certain buildings or even district-wide to cross-check and monitor if the same people are visiting multiple places. This consistency in reporting is key for liability and safety reasons.  Another benefit is student tracking. There will always be students coming and going throughout the day for doctor visits or other reasons, and it’s a lot to keep track of. With visitor management software, you have a record of exactly when a student arrives late or leaves early, and who they are with.

Visitor Management Considerations for Uncertain Times

In the era of COVID-19, visitor entry procedures are more important than ever. Gathering contact information and criminal data about the people who enter each building is key for safety, but now, we also need to monitor the health of every individual. Look for capabilities that allow for extra screening measures around COVID-19 symptoms including temperature checks, and possibly recent travel history (if necessary to avoid current outbreak cities/states). The visitor management system also equips you to assist your local health department with contact tracing. In the event that a recent visitor tests positive for the virus, your management system will have captured the exact time they were in the building and where they went. Plus, you’ll have a photo on file to help staff and students reference when determining if they interacted directly with the visitor. These kinds of capabilities offer more certainty during uncertain times.

How to Easily Set up a Visitor Management System with Navigate360

The right visitor management system prevents the wrong people from entering your school building. Learn more about Building Safer Environments for Students. Give your personnel and parents peace of mind by investing in software that streamlines the visitor process and keeps kids safe. Navigate360 delivers a modern visitor management tool that tracks the critical details while you focus on teaching. Screen Your Visitors. Keep Schools Safe. Talk to Navigate360. Don’t forget to make a referral for the 2020 Referral Program.

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