A local technology company is adding an extra layer of security to Marion County schools

FAIRMONT, W.Va – The Marion County Board of Education has approved a plan to add facial recognition technology to facilities in the district.

A team including law enforcement, school officials and Morgantown’s Level One Computing plans to implement the technology as soon as possible.

Donna Hage (File)

Morgantown-based Level One Compute provides face, object and text recognition algorithms for the U.S. military, law enforcement and corporations, and Vantage Ventures will open in June on the WVU campus in Morgantown. CEO and West Virginia native Scott Swan said they use local organizations as the basis for their technology validation, and Marion County Schools are the first.

“We thought how can we get some of this technology locally and allow people to build their businesses around that, and schools are a great place to start,” Swann said.

Marion County Schools Superintendent Dr. Donna Hege said the technology will be integrated into the building safety audit program recently announced by Marion County Sheriff Jimmy Riffle. The audit produces online images of all buildings available to first responders in real-time in the event of an emergency.

Hage also said that events across the country have put them into a more proactive mindset.

“We did this with experts in the field – the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, the Marion County Department of Homeland Security and Level One,” said Dr. Hage. “Our families, leaders, students and teachers are gathering ideas and solutions to the issues that are happening.”

Scott Swann

The technology is installed on security devices in buildings and enables access to global data. Swann said it is up to school officials to decide what databases are used to check images.

“If someone is wanted or on a warrant list trying to get into school, or someone who has caused a lot of trouble or has been expelled, we can quickly call the right people,” Swan said.

Currently, school visitors are directed to the school’s main office where the sign-up process takes place. School staff will verify the ID and time of the visit. Using facial recognition, security threats can be reported and thwarted before a suspect enters a building. The system can also be used in large-scale gatherings such as sporting events.

“What’s exciting for us about this technology is that instead of that person walking into the building and scanning for a driver’s license, this technology proactively works to assess that person before they even get an entry point into our building.”

Facial recognition technology is advancing rapidly and is used for everything from unlocking phones, managing secure spaces, and in criminal investigations. They can upload facial images without anyone knowing that the systems used are working, and then, if necessary, act on the information quickly.

“It’s not a distraction,” says Dr. Hege. “We’re not using metal detectors, but we’re getting that heightened sense of security and looking at visitors to our schools and campuses.”

Level One Computing currently has four employees operating out of the Vantage Ventures office on the WVU campus in Morgantown. According to Swann, there are plans to increase the staff to 10 by the end of the year. Swann’s decision to establish the business’s East Coast headquarters in West Virginia was supported by U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore-Capito. Additionally, it brings the company closer to several important clients in Washington, D.C., while also placing their jobs in a location where talent thrives.

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