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29 Campuses and Counting

Growing Texas school district adds comprehensive video surveillance system

Pflugerville (pronounced “flew-grr-ville”) Independent School District rests in a popular suburb just northeast of Austin, Texas. Encompass - ing nearly 100 square miles, PISD enrolls more than 21,000 students on 29 campuses.

Within the next 10 years PISD expects to double its enrollment to reach more than 40,000 students. Recognizing the need to develop a comprehensive video surveillance system to effectively monitor and provide safety for the thousands of students that walk the hallways and enter and exit buildings every school day, PISD sought a district-wide video management system to replace the DVRs and proprietary camera software systems it was using at a few campuses.

Finding a Fix

“We had a campus-by-campus DVR-based system, and not at every campus, just at a few,” said Jo Moss, PISD safety and emergency management coordinator. “If a camera went down—which was often—we went out to the BuyBoard state-approved vendor list and just bought another one. We found what we had in place to be a temporary fix for what was a more general issue.”

Moss said it was a system that offered little support and that seemed to result in continued money invested in equipment, rather than a solution. She and Todd Gratehouse, technology project manager, then sought to further develop the existing plan and to implement a comprehensive resolution that would provide district-wide coverage—a solution that was in line with the district’s safety initiatives.

Supporting the Enterprise

After an exhaustive bid process, PISD selected Video Insight’s Enterprise software to manage the district-wide camera solution. System integrator Titus Systems, of Round Rock, Texas, provided the physical installation of the cabling and cameras. The implementation includes 600 Axis and 300 Arecont 8 MP cameras running on 11 Dell R510 servers, each with 22 TB of RAID5 storage hosted in the PISD datacenter.

Cameras have been placed in all major hallways, entrances and exits, bus loops, loading docks, cafeterias and gymnasiums. The district chose the extremely reliable Axis cameras for many of its indoor and outdoor locations. The Arecont cameras are a mix of 180-degree and 360-degree 8 MP panoramic cameras. The Arecont cameras provide four separate camera streams but use only one Video Insight license (which saves the district money). Moss said the Arecont 8 MP 360s also make the camera presence less noticeable by students.

“With the Arecont 360, I have four excellent views of the cafeteria, for example, but as far as the students are concerned, they just see one camera,” Moss said. “Also, our school board didn’t want to give the impression that PISD had entered a ‘Big Brother’ phase, so the more you can do with fewer cameras satisfies everyone.”

With PISD’s fiber infrastructure, all 2,200 cameras are streamed from the various campuses to the datacenter where the Video Insight Enterprise Software distributes the processing across the Dell R510s, running more than 150 cameras per server, which makes for an efficient use of infrastructure, Gratehouse said. In addition, a twelfth R510 is configured for automated failover in the case of a server failure.

“Our purpose in developing this plan was to provide the safest environment for our students and employees while also maximizing our resources, and we have achieved that,” he said.

Gratehouse added that employees have found the Video Insight software much more “user friendly” than what they had before.

“Our campus administrators and police officers monitor the cameras, and at times we have had to make video clips for use in investigations,” he said. “They have had no problems in retrieving video and in using the software. It has been so easy for them to just get into the software and do what they need to do because the user interface is so simple to use.”

Moss said PISD is building for growth with two new elementary schools, a middle school and a high school coming on board in the next five years. The district plans to have cameras using Video Insight for these campuses, as well.

The district is pleased overall with the implementation, particularly since the comprehensive coverage Video Insight provides supports the district-wide safety plan.

“We know that we have the doors, cafeterias, gyms and hallways of all schools covered,” Moss aid. “That consistency is key to the implementation of our district-wide safety program. All campuses have the ability to monitor and provide a safe environment for our students and employees.”

About the Author

Nicole Segura is the communications manager at Video Insight.

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