By Lilly Milman

For the first time, the Skagway School will use an automated electronic lock system on its doors.

The new locks will allow administrators to regulate access to the entire school, rather than locking doors manually one-by-one with keys. The new system will be in place by the end of this week. Classes start Aug. 15.

The metal keys will be replaced by a key fob, a handheld electronic device that grants access to the building when pressed to a sensor. Each fob has a unique barcode that is scanned to open a door. The door automatically locks again after it is shut.

Unlike metal keys, which can be duplicated without the school’s knowledge, fobs can be deactivated by school officials if the device is lost or the school decides to deny someone access. The inventory of the fobs also can be tracked. This marks a change in accountability from the metal key system, as the school has not been able to keep track of all the keys created in the past 35 years, School Superintendent Joshua Coughran said during the school board meeting on July 9.

“I honestly couldn’t tell you how many keys are out there,” Coughran said. “So, once we shut that down, and we start giving the fob, then we fully with 100-percent confidence control access to our own building.”

A portion of a grant awarded to the Skagway Traditional Council (STC) by the federal School Violence Prevention Program paid for the new system, STC financial committee member Sara Kinjo-Hischer said. Any nonprofit is eligible to apply for the grant, and Kinjo-Hischer volunteered to apply on behalf of the school, Coughran said. The lock system, installed by Doak’s Lock & Key, of Juneau, cost around $12,000, Coughran said.

“The catalyst for the electronic locks was the amazing partnership we have with the STC,” Coughran said. “We had a meeting and asked, ‘What could we do to enhance the safety and security of the school?’”

In addition to gaining more control over the building, the school is also working on developing an emergency notification system that will notify the police department in the case of an intruder.