New Bedford Vocational Technical High School

  • Public, Four-year Vocational-Technical High School
  • 48-acre Campus
  • More than 1,800 students
  • Adult educational program serves 2,600 adults
  • One of the largest vocational-technical high schools in Massachusetts

Site Description

Greater New Bedford regional Vocational Technical High School is a public, four-year vocational/technical high school for young men and women. With an enrollment of more than 1,800 students, GNB Voc-Tech is one of the largest vocational-technical high schools in Massachusetts. It serves the communities of New Bedford, Dartmouth and Fairhaven, Massachusetts.

One of the first vocational schools in the country, its roots date back nearly a century to the creation of the New Bedford Independent Industrial School in 1908. When it opened in 1909, the school served only 59 students, all from New Bedford. Over the years, the school built a reputation for excellence by providing quality vocational and academic programs. In 1918, its name was changed to New Bedford Vocational School. In 1946, it became New Bedford Vocational High School. In 1955, It became the first vocational high school to be accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

In 1972, voters in New Bedford, Dartmouth and Fairhaven approved the establishment of a regional vocational school district and construction of a regional vocational school. In 1977, Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School was opened. Today the school sits on a beautiful 48-acre campus in the North End of New Bedford, Massachusetts, offering specialized training in 26 career majors. The school has an enrollment of more than 1,800 students in grades 9 through 12. Each year, the school serves more than 2,600 adults through its Adult education programs.

A $22 million addition and renovation project is currently underway and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2003. Among other things, the project will add some much-needed labs and classrooms.

The Situation

As a vocational high school, the following trades are taught within the program: automobile and auto body repair, plumbing, steam boiler operation, welding, carpentry, printing, air conditioning maintenance and repair, culinary arts, computer programming, computer repair, dental hygiene, and nutrition. The value of the tools and other equipment, as well as the supplies for all these programs, is substantial, and the ability to protect them from loss is critical. Controlling access to areas where high value inventory is maintained was one of the primary objectives of the system. As we all know, school funds are precious. The system designed to provide this protection had to be cost effective.

The access control system, when originally conceived and implemented, was for this purpose. Doors to high security areas were locked to all but authorized personnel. The access system not only controls who enters a secured area, but also records the access events for future review. The event record lists whom and at what time the entry was made. The Keri access system using proximity card reading technology and driven by Keri’s Doors software was the system chosen for this project.

Since that time, we have witnessed several horrific scenes at high schools across the country, and with those incidents as a reminder, the system is now being expanded and further developed with the most valuable commodity in mind—the safety of the students.

When the school was designed, the architect had the foresight to include a large “Welcome Center.” In the lobby of this area is a guard station which is manned before, during and after school hours. This entry is now the only point of entry into the main school building. Other high-risk areas on campus include the athletic facility and related storage buildings.

The Keri Solution

The main part of the school is a two-story structure, with multiple single story wings housing many shop areas. The facility has many doors that have to be controlled. One of the primary advantages of the Keri approach is the cost-effective design of the network architecture.

Each door controller is “Smart” to the door, i.e., the system intelligence is distributed to the point of entry. Even though a central PC is used to program the security parameters, collect activity data and allow the system administrators to modify the operational parameters of the system, once programmed, the door controllers make all decisions to unlock and lock a door at the door location.

If the computer fails, the operation of the network is not affected. The doors continue to operate at scheduled times allowing access to authorized personnel. If a controller fails, only that door is affected. The remainder of the system continues to operate as though nothing is wrong. The problems are easily isolated without serious downtime and costs to repair are minimized because the problems can be identified and isolated quickly.

Many controllers are positioned above drop ceilings in the corridors, with short wire runs to the door locks, readers and sensors. Not only is the cost of wiring minimized, but identification and location of the door controller is very quickly determined—further reducing maintenance and service costs.

A total of 108 doors are controlled. They include all office doors for faculty and staff, the exterior doors in and around the shop areas as well as the main entrance, the athletic facility, high value inventory storage areas, gates to loading docks and shops. In systems this large, conventional systems using multi-door controllers with limited distributed intelligence require much more time to isolate problems.

Another advantage of the Keri system is the use of proximity readers. These readers sense the presence of a card (key) when the card is in close proximity to the reader. Read distance is anywhere from three to 15 inches depending on the reader style used. Because there is no contact between the reader and the card, wear is not a function of usage. Reader maintenance is practically nonexistent, unlike key and slot reader systems that wear because of contact and require periodic maintenance.

Each proximity card is encoded with a unique internal number. When the card is issued the Doors software records the name of the person and assigns an operation authority level. The authority level determines what doors are accessible to the individual and at what times. Each time the card is used, the event is recorded. The security administrator can track the activity of a user if a situation warrants investigation.

The Doors software allows the system programming of time, holiday and vacation schedules. The schedules can be applied to each door in the system. Once programmed, the day to day operation of the system is automatic. Doors can be unlocked and locked automatically. Special features ensure that a door will not automatically unlock during secured hours if no one arrives to occupy the secured area. For example, if a door is scheduled to open at 8:00 A.M. on any given day and no one shows up to occupy the room or building on that day, the door will remain locked until and authorized person arrives. Because the operation is automatic, system administrative duties are minimized and so are operational costs.


School officials have been very pleased with the system’s performance and the ease of usage. The Doors software screens are very clear and easily read. Changes to the program are made often. The ease of making changes is complimented by the fact the programming changes can be made and examined before being sent to the network to for implementation. Self-explanatory graphics and descriptive Icons make traveling through the software straightforward.

School officials have found Keri’s response to technical issues timely and helpful. Keri’s representatives in the area have been very accommodating with training and direct assistance.

School officials will continue to develop and expand the system as funds are available. There are plans to expand the physical structure of the school, and the new space will accommodated the access system’s expansion during the construction phase.

Eighty doors worth of access control will be added to the system in early 2003. Additionally, the school will install Keri’s Video Badging System, which will print custom photo IDs to go along with the proximity credentials in use. Each department or group will have a different color badge containing their picture and other pertinent information.

The new Department of Homeland Security has visited the school, along with the FBI. They have expressed strong interest in the facility and are continuing to follow the growth of the access system. They are looking at the New Bedford School as a template for other schools to follow.

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