Carroll schools to be equipped with new security access systems

Visitors to Carroll County Public Schools will start to see something different at county schools this spring.

The school system will begin installing new visitor access systems at every school in the county in coming months following a comprehensive security study performed by a Bel Air crisis management firm.

The Fallston Group presented an overview of its four-month study, completed in December, to the Carroll County Board of Education Wednesday.

"The bottom line is you're doing a lot right," said Rob Weinhold, a principal with the Fallston Group.

Fallston's report stems from the school system's security advisory committee, which was formed last year, shortly after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The firm considered school facilities, current security hardware, and technology among other elements in studying the school system's security measures.

The 400 page report, which cost the school system about $148,500, will not be made public, since it is essentially a blueprint to the school system's security measures.

The first visible impact from the study will be the installation of new access buzzers and cameras, which will require school visitors to show a photo identification before entering a school.

About eight schools currently have some form of an access buzzer, according to coordinator of security Larry Faries, but all 43 schools will receive a new system as part of the change.

Faries said he expects the new access buzzers to be installed at elementary schools first.

He said another immediate change will be the use of a script that school staff will use to welcome visitors, which will ensure continuity across the school system.

The school system has about $1.2 million available for the access system project, which is a combination of local and state funding.

Based on preliminary budget estimates, the school system believes it can fund the access and visitor management systems for all schools with that funding, according to Gary Davis, Chief Information Officer.

Davis said the school system is hopeful the systems can be installed at every school within the next year.

Superintendent Steve Guthrie said the access systems will provide consistency across the school system.

"We're trying to get everyone on the same page," he said.

Overall, Guthrie said the report was very "thorough, analytical, and helpful."

The security advisory committee, comprised of 22 school officials, community members, and parents, has been working since January with the Fallston Group to find ways to improve safety at schools in Carroll County.

Board Member Jim Doolan, who served on the committee, said it was a very worthwhile endeavor.

"I think we'll see things change," he said.

Security enhancements in the future could include additional card readers at school entrances, enhanced surveillance systems, and additional training for staff, but that is all dependent upon funding, according to Faries.

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