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Carroll schools to get buzzer entrances, more cameras as superintendent eyes security

Carroll County Public Schools will soon have buzzer entrance devices and cameras, with key card access at some doors, as the school system reacts to parents' concerns about safety and security in the wake of the school shooting last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

On Tuesday, Superintendent Stephen Guthrie sent an email letter to all parents noting several new procedures that the system will take — though he acknowledged the measures might not be as strong as some parents would like.

"Without major renovation, our buildings cannot be transformed into fortress-like structures that will keep our children safe from those whose sole intent is to do them harm," Guthrie wrote in the letter, sent out as an "alert" from the school system.

"The reality is that no matter what we put into place, I cannot guarantee the safety of any child in school from a Sandy Hook Elementary type event," he said. "However, there are some things we can do to tighten up security at our schools.

Guthrie said that after recent meetings with CCPS staff andlawenforcement officials, and conferring with principals, the system will work to implement several measures:

Install controlled buzzer/camera entrances at each school where needed.

Lock all other exterior doors, allowing only key card access at selected doors.

Continue conducting lock-down drills at each school for students and staff.

Provide "active shooter" training to school administrators and staff. The training involves proceedures to help staff determine whether they should shelter students "in place" — such as keeping them in room and blocking windows and doors — or if they should evacuate them, depending on the circumstance.

Ask principals to review security procedures on a regular basis at staff meetings.

Require schools to issue badges for temporary employees that are date specific.

Ask local law enforcement agencies to create an "Adopt a School" program to increase a police presence at schools.

Other measures include enforcing the requirement for school employees to display ID badges; developing a communications protocol for principals to use when a threat is made to an individual school; and encouraging students to inform a school staff or a parent if they are aware of threats.

Guthrie noted that CCPS has already installed surveillance cameras at most schools in both interior and exterior locations that can be viewed 24 hours a day by school and central office personnel — and that police can access each school's camera network.

"By the end of the year we will have surveillance cameras installed in all schools," said Guthrie, who noted that cameras are also installed on most CCPS school buses.

The superintendent noted that some of the measures will require the school system to go to the Board of County Commissioners for funding, though he was not specific. A spokeswoman said Guthrie "is seeking" additional funds.

Guthrie said some parents and others have suggested additional measures, including installation of metal detectors at entrances, steel doors, requiring visitors to provide driver's licenses, performing background checks on school visitors and employing school resource officers at each school.

"These suggestions may have merit, but will require more analysis and funding than is possible in a short time frame," Guthrie said. He also noted that the school system already has "an excellent relationship with our various law enforcement agencies."

Guthrie said the Sandy Hook Elementary School incident raised the issue of safety in the minds of parents and administrators.

"We all grieve with the families of the victims while at the same time wondering if our own children are safe while they are in school," he said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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